Where are you going my parish? Reflection after synod meetings
My synodal journey was very intense and took place on several levels: parish level (I was one of the organizers of the synod in my parish), diocesan level (during the first phase of the synod I wrote a letter to Fr. Archbishop in my diocese with proposals for changes in the operation of the Synod Secretariat and the way the synod was communicated in the diocese and then I met with those responsible for the Synod in my diocese) and nationwide (by creating and updating the synod.org.pl website, coordinating the "Get Involved in the Synod!" campaign or being present in the "Between Earth and Heaven" program dedicated to the synodal path). So it was given to me to look at the synodal process from different levels. So what, after the Synod ends at the diocesan level, do I stay with?
The first thing that comes immediately to my mind is immense gratitude to Pope Francis for implementing the Synod in this universal form. It was a very courageous decision - in the reality of the Catholic Church as I experience it - even revolutionary. And certainly along the way the Pope had to overcome many "logs" thrown under his feet. And I thank God that he was able to do this and thus invite us all to enter the synodal path. I am also grateful to my Archbishop for taking the Synod seriously (and I know that this was not the norm - by the way, optimistically estimating, based on data made available in diocesan syntheses, ca. 50% of the parishes participated in the synod, and I have the impression (based on how many dioceses made the syntheses available to the public, a clear suggestion by Pope Francis) that also about 50% of the dioceses were really zealously involved in the conduct of the synod - the rest "pretended" to be involved - more or less successfully). The involvement of Fr. The Archbishop expressed the motivation of the entire Synod Secretariat and their attentiveness to the comments made and their willingness to make changes in the organization of the Synod (if needed). But above all, listening - which is what was at the heart of the Synod. I thank God for my Fr. A parish priest who took the Synod seriously in the parish. He was not afraid of difficult topics, attended every meeting, and shared his opinion frankly himself. By his example, all meetings were attended by Vicar priests, and nuns active in our parish. And at the very end, although without their presence the Synod would be meaningless, I thank the Lord for all the parishioners who decided to embark on the Synodal journey. In total, there were more than 60 of us who courageously, often stepping out of our comfort zone, decided to share our dreams and concerns about our parish and the Church....
Our Parish Synod was a beautiful experience of listening to each other, coming together, being attentive to what makes us different and what is common. But above all, a beautiful experience of what it can look like to walk together in the diversity that we are as a Church. It was a "mystical" journey whose goal was not some "ideal" construction of the Church, but Jesus Christ himself. For we saw how different we all are - we have so many different ideas about what should be changed in the Church, what should be preserved in the Church, what the Church should look like. Humanly speaking, there is no way to incorporate all these ideas at the same time. There are so many differences between us. But we have much more in common - the desire to follow Jesus - our Lord and Savior. It resonated so strongly. So unequivocally. And it made it so that even these huge differences could not divide us. We spoke with respect, openness, attentiveness. I realized that what appeared to be my vision of the ideal church was only one of many options. Not at all better than others - more suited to my spiritual needs, but after all, I am not the only member of the Church. And my sisters and brothers in have different sensitivities, needs, past experiences. So in human terms, we'll probably never go shoulder to shoulder. But in a mystical way, each of us wants to follow the Lord. So while the human eye may not see it, the "enlightened eyes of the heart" will help us see that we are walking together. And we desire the same. The Synod was a beautiful opportunity to experience this. And this vision of a common way "inward," ceased to be just a theological concept, but became a practical experience that changed how I see the Church. She brought a lot of peace. Trust in God's providence and His plan for all of us.
After the synod meetings ended, the question arose in me: what's next? How do we apply the synodal experience in the daily life of our parish? How to make the parish a desired community of communities? Our home and not an office where "spiritual" services are arranged? How do we revitalize our parish community and pull it out of the morass in which it is stuck? Despite the fact that a lot of valuable ideas were given at the synod, simply putting them into practice does not seem to me to be a good solution. Rather, what is needed is systematic and consistent "grassroots" work. Changing the mentality of both clergy and laity. But how would it be accomplished?....
I am constantly considering these issues within myself and asking the Lord for light. What is clear to me is that the first step to revitalize the parish is the conversion of Fr. Pastor. A real encounter with the living God that transforms the heart. It makes a person a witness to the Good News. For behold, he met the Lord and learned the Truth that made him free. After such an encounter, the only thing that matters is announcing to the world that Jesus is alive, that he loves each of us, has redeemed each of us through his death and Resurrection. And in order to share in the Good News, one must proclaim Him as one's Lord and Savior. When such an encounter with Jesus takes place nothing is more important than listening to the Lord and obediently doing His will. For "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). Only from there can the parish be changed. Once Rev. Abp. Gregory Rys said of evangelization that it can only be done by those who have met the Lord. And if someone who has not yet experienced a life-transforming encounter with Jesus is thinking about evangelizing, he or she had better sit down and wait until it passes. And I believe the same is true for revitalizing parishes. And to meet a converted pastor is almost like winning a six in the totlot. It is much more common to find a spiritual official who has long forgotten his original zeal. Who, even if he is an efficient organizer, is more concerned with the material affairs of the parish than with the proclamation of the Good News. It does not show the joy of the fact that, behold, the Lord has risen and redeemed us all. And each of us has access to the Father. And everyone can be saved! And this is wonderful News! Such a conversion is a grace - always undeserved. They cannot be "earned," "prayed for," or "asked out." It cannot be achieved after 5 years of theological studies or 2 five-year curates. What you can do is to desire such a conversion above all else and prepare to meet the Lord - each day denying yourself and striving for holiness.
And when Fr. The pastor is ready, like a little child, with confidence, to follow the Lord, then he will be given an idea of how his parish needs to be revitalized. And it will happen by God's power and not by human cunning or wisdom. Which is not to say that the talents of the lay faithful, of which there is an abundance in every parish, will not be used. I believe that it is the laity with their experience and commitment that will play a key role in any parish renewal process. But the boss will be Jesus acting through the one whom the Lord has chosen as a leader - Rev. Pastor.
Are there any action patterns to help revitalize the parish? Yes, several, of which I was recently given the opportunity to get to know two more closely. One is the New Image of the Parish (NOP - more: https://parafiaserbinow.pl/program-nowy-obraz-parafii/). The other to the Church Aware of Purpose (https://nowaewangelizacja.org/ksc/). It is likely that the continuation of the synod.org.pl website will in some way be linked to the presentation of the assumptions of these two programs - as a proposal for the continuation of the synodal path. But I give it all to the Lord and entrust it to Him.
So what am I left with after the synod? With great gratitude for the meetings that took place. With a sense that organizing one unitary event after another (such as a parish picnic, pilgrimages, synod meetings or retreats of entrustment to Mary) without a strategic idea for the whole will not transform a service point, which for most is our parish, into a living community of faith. And with the hope of converting Fr. Pastor so that he becomes a zealous apostle of Jesus Christ.
I am glad that I was able to write this text. It made me realize what is most important at this point and what I should focus on - praying for all priests (including my parish priest), for a return to their original zeal, for a desire to convert and meet the Lord heart to heart. If what I wrote is true, then the renewal of our (my) parishes depends on this conversion.
So let this conversion become the experience of every priest!