SYNOD 8: PARISHIONERS’ VIEWS

In responding to the Pope’s request that we listen to each other in pursuit of a strengthened Catholic community, stronger parish participation and enacting our entrusted mission, our fellow parishioners have expressed many, and sometimes, differing and even controversial views. Here are a few for your consideration with some longer contributions edited to fit the space available while retaining the authentic style of each contributor:

Bidding Prayers

We have talked together a bit about this.  I’m not much good at it, but I did wonder whether ~ under the heading of ‘Participation’ ~ there might be some mileage in encouraging parishioners to contribute a Bidding Prayer for Sunday Mass.  Perhaps just one (rather than all four!), but one that would be relevant to a current event or situation that is crying out for prayer.  I’m sure we’re not alone in often feeling real anguish at the absence of such a prayer among those that come from the official Book.

Of course, Father Nick would need to approve both the idea and any prayer that might be contributed, and parishoners would need reassurance that brevity and simple language are best. I’m sure they would need no reminding that the Holy Spirit is the most wonderful of all guides.   And that guidance, and the prayer itself, would be shared by all who were present.

Sermon

The Catholic church should listen more to itself: that is its congregation. It should do this by inviting via a “collections box” at the back of each church, ideas for sermons. The parish priest could then go through the various topics offered by his congregation and decide on which to give his sermon. The likelihood is many expressions of interest would coalesce around broad topics and, even where one’s personal topic were not chosen, it is likely most would be recognised as relevant by other members of the congregation. The benefits should include the priest hearing more from his parish, sermons being relevant to everyday lives, the Church getting a far better understanding and feedback across all its congregations, as to what was important for them. And, finally, parishioners becoming more engaged – both by contributing ideas and sharing a feeling that their personal concerns are being talked to. As a universal organisation inviting its body to speak would give a far deeper relevance to the Church’s mission.

Holy Communion

About 70% of Roman Catholics (Recent Survey in the USA) don’t believe in the Real Presence.  This one would find unbelievable, except for the observed irreverence in which Holy Communion is received by many and on occasion administered.  In a previous parish the lay Eucharistic minister described her job as giving out the wine!!  To necessitate a return to a belief in the Real Presence, bring back the altar rails and have reception of the Holy Eucharist on the tongue whilst kneeling.  No need for extraordinary ministers of the eucharist to be involved in church.  They can take Holy Communion to the sick when necessary. Any extra queuing time can be seen as a blessing, due to it being an opportunity to further prepare to receive Our Lord in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.  Most people are prepared to queue for their shopping (including on Sundays) for longer than they do for Holy Communion.

The faith must be taught in our Catholic schools without any fear of embarrassment or kowtowing to secular pressure.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church should be used to inform all staff and governors about God’s revealed truth.

Parish & Church

The request by Pope Francis is that we listen to each other and discuss these themes in a prayerful and discerning manner. We found the notion of small groups to be a useful vehicle for this process and we shall be meeting again.  This will only be effectively achieved if we have enough time to do it.

There was an almost unanimous view within the group that parishioners do not normally have a voice that is heard. There is no parish council to facilitate communication.

In terms of the document (our strengths) It was mentioned that there seemed to be an over-reliance on things that were done by certain parishioners rather than what it meant to be Catholic in our community. It was felt by some that our strengths should be as much about what we are or what we aspire to be as it was about activities performed within our church community.

What is happening in the Catholic Church? What’s going wrong? What is my part in it? What must I do to change? We individually need to answer these questions. Change begins with each one of us. For the moment we recognise that we need to spend time with each other, talking with a voice that will be listened to and acted upon. The structure for feedback and the effective planting of seeds of change does not exist. Perhaps that is one of our greatest weaknesses. The Synod Journey however has begun and those in attendance at our group today look forward to progress tomorrow. A plea would be, however, that we do not pay lip service to it but set aside as much time as necessary, meeting together in small groups. This would be as true of our local Catholic Community as it was for the church as a whole.

Chickens

The Church should be doing far more to speak out on behalf of animals being treated immorally by our industrial agricultural system and the earth being similarly abused. The foundational creation story of the Bible was implicit on this point: “and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” I consider the Church has utterly failed to articulate and lead on this. It should advise against consuming that which is produced immorally and it should urge that consumption is in itself an act of faith; that what we take from the earth and the animals is as God would have it, not as our wallets would urge. We should seek that which is produced in harmony with nature: not that which destroys it or renders man the most objectionable of creatures. To start with the leaders of the Church should disclaim for their own consumption all that is produced immorally. That means generally using organic food and animals reared and slaughtered with dignity – no battery chickens or cattle fed only in barns.

Scientific & Technological Advances

The challenges facing our Church are common, I believe, to many institutions throughout the Western World. Authority vested in these may go back very many centuries and until perhaps the 1970s their right to exist was never questioned.

With the dawning of the New Millennium the extraordinary advances made by medicine and all forms of technology, the pronouncements made by Brian Cox and others like him, appear to suggest there is no limit to what man can achieve. The steady and relentless advances made in the realm of astrophysics, telecommunications and other branches of scientific endeavour, enhance the notion that man is supreme and can manage without God. Yet, despite all this, when we meet adversity and deep pain man turns to God, his Creator.

Suggestion: Catholic teaching should ideally come from parents in very early stages of life and thereafter in school.

A few thoughts on the documents Parish Profile and the Parish in the Community

The Parish Profile seems to be more about the running of the parish than “a parish community of prayer and purpose”. Obviously, we need to abide by certain regulations e.g. Health & Safety, buildings, accounts, but should we let administrative issues be main focus of our parish? Where is God? And where are His people?

As a parish we seem quite materialistic, and inclined to divide into cliques which dictate who does what and with whom. We really should move away from the clique mentality.

Throughout the pandemic we have managed without many of the things we previously thought essential in the parish. Instead of trying to bring everything back, perhaps we ought to consider keeping things simple, and put the emphasis back on the spiritual rather than the administrative.

The “same regular few” do most things because it is the same regular few who keep getting asked to do them! Why not encourage more people to take a turn on rota, including less regular attendees. Or change the way we do things e.g. continue to pay for a cleaner, or go without flowers, lovely though they are? We do have choices. If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always got.

The Church could start to address the shortage of priests right now if it wished, by accepting married priests and women priests. A good priest is a good priest, regardless of marital status or gender.

Sharing a priest with Ross certainly puts a heavier burden on the priest, As Christians we should share what we have. Thanks to Ross we have been able to live-stream Mass with Fr Nick all through the pandemic, and they only have one Sunday Mass whereas we have two. Ross parishioners help in other ways too, e.g. serving at Mass on Saturday evening, or attending or helping at parish social and fund-raising events. As sister parishes we could be pooling our resources and building up our relationship.

Covid has not only had a prolonged impact on parish life, it has also had a prolonged impact on the lives of the parishioners themselves, and we must remember that.

It would be good to have an honest assessment of our parish (and Ross) from Fr Nick, as he must be one of the most experienced parish priests in the Archdiocese. How do we compare with other parishes? What does he think most needs to be improved or done differently?

We might not like what we hear, but it might be just what we need to hear.

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This collection of views comes entirely from parishioners and ranges over diverse topics. Tellingly, when given the opportunity to contribute to the life of the Church so many have been happy or at least prepared to do so. In itself it is a positive sign of interest and involvement in the Church.

There are more contributions yet to be published during February before this phase of our Synodal Journey has to yield to preparing our report for the Archdiocese in March 2022.