“We have to look at where the Lord is leading us in order for us to be effective in making new disciples for the Lord”

 The Catholic Church throughout the world and in Ireland is beginning a series of conversations about what God wants of his people at this time.

These conversations are often referred to as a Synodal Process. “Synodal” comes from a Greek word which means “walking together”.

 Advent is a time of expectation, awaiting the Lord’s revelation in our midst.

This year we start our synodal journey. The Lord is inviting us through Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary to prepare the way for the Lord in

the wilderness. Our theme of ‘walking together in hope’ provides every parish with an opportunity to reflect, pray and catechise as we prepare for the

initial phase of the synodal process, the listening stage.

We can begin renewal only from where we are, not from where we would like to think we are.

What is a synod and why now a synod on synodality? 

If you ask people to draw an image of the church, many will draw a building or an institution. A much more biblical image is that of the pilgrim people, led by God.

Todays’ Gospel calls us to read the signs of the times that we face as Church. In recent decades many things have changed

•The church as institution has lost much of its prestige and power. •The number of ordained clergy has diminished in this part of the world.

•While we have baptised almost as many people as ever, we have not been encouraging lots of new committed disciples for Christ.

•New communication methods have enabled many to be in touch in different ways.

•There is a rediscovery of

◦The universal call to holiness

◦The church as mission-focused

•We have to discover the grace that lies in being weak – and letting God be in charge.

This is not just a time of change but a change of time. Pope Francis proposes that we develop ways of discovering together God’s way forward

in a new time and place. We are asked to rediscover that we are a pilgrim people, following the voice of God who calls us one step at a time. We are moving

beyond a Church where everything depends on ‘Father’.

The Advent liturgy is an invitation to journey in hope, allowing ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God. The key scriptural figures are Isaiah, John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph. These walked in trust Pope Francis has asked us to rediscover the Advent spirit of leaving our secure base and trusting that the Lord will guide our feet into the way of peace.

We aim to have a time of local listening to one another in January/February, building towards a diocesan submission to an Irish national response.

All national responses will be considered by the Vatican and a Working Document sent back for local reflection and comment in late 2022 – building towards the Synod of Bishops’ meeting in October 2023, and beyond. This is the beginning of a new way of being Church. It is not

just a passing initiative. It is facing the future together, open to the

guidance of the Holy Spirit.Advent is not just a season of the year. It is a

permanent part of our identity as Church.

+ Donal

Bishop of Derry