By Susan Gately - 09 April, 2016
The Diocesan Synod taking place this weekend is a moment of “distilled wisdom” where the Church in Limerick sees the “fruits of what has been going on over the last year and a half in Limerick”, according to Bishop Brendan Leahy.
“It is a wonderful experience – a little Pentecost in Limerick where we see a great maturity in discernment.”
Over 500 delegates gathered yesterday at the start of the culminating weekend of the Synod.
Bishop Leahy said that there was a “great sense of mission and compassionate outreach to people who might have felt hurt by the Church or who were not in touch” coming through the synod proposals.
“There is a huge desire to reach out to these people,” he told CathlolicIreland.net.
There have been twenty three synodal meetings in the last eighteen months in Limerick diocese. Through these meetings, a hundred proposals have been put together in the synod handbook.
This weekend, the 500-plus delegates will debate the proposals and vote on them.
Each delegate, representing a parish or other group, has a choice of ‘strongly agreeing’, ‘agreeing’ or ‘disagreeing’ with each proposal using a ‘clicker’.
Yesterday morning for example, the proposal to have a parish register where people could chose to register for a particular parish (like what happens in the US) rather than being linked to the parish near where you live, was voted down.
The synod comes at the end of a long ‘listening process’.
Five thousand people completed questionnaires and the responses were combined so that “no voice was lost”.
Unlike previous synods which only involved consultation with high ranking clergy or people very involved in Church, this synod has sought the views of people outside the Church too.
One parish, for example, set up a stand in a local shopping centre and distributed questionnaires there. The views of stakeholders in the city were sought too and others, like migrants, prisoners and families.
Bishop Leahy said the proposals that come out of the synod will become the policy of the diocese. “They will become the local Church’s position on these issues.”
The former professor of theology at Maynooth, explained that the details of some proposals will have to be worked on by canon lawyers, but other proposals can be put into effect immediately.
“For example, the simple suggestion that parishes should provide a cup of tea after Mass got great support this morning.”
Other proposals, like those concerning a family support network could take longer to act on.
Bishop Leahy hopes that within a number of months (for example after the summer), it will be possible to have a ‘Promulgation Ceremony’ formally endorsing the proposals.
He believes the proposals carry great weight.
“This is the voice of God for us for this moment of time. It is not just my voice. It is a policy that we will all feel responsible for,” he said.
The synod is the first Irish synod in fifty years, and the first in Limerick in 80 years.
340 lay delegates are taking part, all the clergy and “observers” from other faith communities.
As well as representing parishes, the delegates represent educational institutions, disability groups, immigrants, new religious communities, interfaith groups, the Irish-speaking community, civic, healthcare and sporting groups.
Its themes include: community and a sense of belonging, engaging the marginalised; family and family support; and young people.
According to one delegate, Rose O’Connor, the journey of the synod over the past eighteen months has brought “a sense of vibrancy in the Church of Limerick.”