• Synodal questions: synthesis of our parish response

Synod report to diocese

Context

St Edmund’s Bungay is a small, two Mass-centre parish within the Suffolk coastal deanery.  Following the retirement of our previous priest last August, Fr Michael Brookes started as our priest administrator in September.  Previously the parish had belonged to the English Benedictine Congregation but is currently nearing the end of the process of transferring to diocesan management.  Because of this, the synod comes at a particularly apposite time for us.  It encourages parishioners to meet together to share ideas and views, and listen to each other.  Mass attendance, as at most churches, was badly affected by the pandemic but is now recovering well.

Synodal process within the parish

Parishioners were informed about the synodal pathway with notices from the pulpit and in newsletters and website articles.  Articles encouraging the involvement of those more on the margins of parish life were also highlighted on the parish website.  Several meetings were held, some in person at coffee after Sunday Mass, some on line via Zoom.  Paper copies of the ten questions were made available.

The response

Numbers attending the meetings, both on-line and in person, were relatively low.  Some individuals expressed a cynical view to the parish co-ordinator – that there was little point responding to the survey.  ‘It’s just a paper exercise’ and ‘they won’t listen to what we say’ were two comments made.  Another comment, which was made by many of those attending the meetings, was that the questions asked were not the ones that needed to be asked.  Generally though, parishioners welcomed the opportunity to discuss the questions together.

Responses to individual questions.

How welcoming is our parish?

  • Coffee after Mass seen as a key feature of parish socialising
  • The use of ‘welcomers’ at Sunday Masses, to welcome attendees, give out newsletters, hymn books etc, needs to be reinstated. This has never ceased at Harleston.
  • New people in particular need to be approached and encouraged to attend coffee after Mass
  • Parishioners need to be encouraged to become involved in parish activities

How good are we at listening?

  • as our parish enters a new stage of its development, talking, listening and discerning together will be crucial
  • some groups do feel unnoticed – an individual parish may be welcoming but some felt that the church as a whole remains exclusive to some, for example those whose sexuality may not be in line with Church teaching
  • there was a very strong feeling from some that women should be able to play a far greater role at the higher decision-making levels of the Church hierarchy

How good are we at communicating?

  • As a parish we welcome this opportunity to share our thoughts and ideas
  • We are proud of our parish website and need to explore other ways of using social media and technology such as live-streaming of Masses

How well does the Church’s liturgy inspire a deep encounter with the Risen Lord?

  • As we emerge from the pandemic we are looking as a parish at ways of deepening our encounter with Christ
  • We have recently reinstated the use of a prayer-board at Harleston, and are considering ways of involving more parishioners in activities such as a Rosary or other prayer group

How well do I understand and participate in the mission of the Church?

  • At this point in our parish development we are seeking ways of involving more parishioners in parish life
  • We are also exploring the reinstatement of a parish support network
  • Family Masses have resumed, and we are looking at ways of involving parishioners more in the Mass eg reinstating readers to read the bidding prayers
  • Some parishioners stressed that, as well as promoting good causes, how we live and interact with others is how we live out our mission
  • Historically we have not had a strong relationship with our diocese, but this is about to change
  • We need to explore the part the parish could play within our Deanery

How well do we engage with the wider world?

  • Many felt that Catholic Social Teaching is a great gift to the world
  • We have an active Cafod group and our parish also supports the local foodbank
  • The parish was recently given the Live Simply award from Cafod and we are working to extend parishioners’ involvement with environmental issues
  • We are involved in projects which help refugees, particularly those at Calais, and are seeking to extend this.

How good is our relationship with other Christian traditions?

  • A small number of parishioners is involved with the Churches Together forum in Bungay but we are seeking to develop this involvement.

How well do we work as a team in our parish?

  • We are very much looking forward to establishing a system of working together
  • Our aim is to involve as great a number as possible of parishioners who participate in parish life.

How open are we to the will of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

  • As a parish we are seeking to find ways of discerning the direction the Holy Spirit is leading us
  • We have a Parish Pastoral Council to support our priest and have taken steps to make records of PPC meetings more accessible to parishioners
  • We need to consider whether more parishioners should be invited to become involved in decision-making within the parish

How well do we hand on our faith?

  • Many older parishioners are sad that their children are no longer practising their faith
  • There was a feeling that Catholic schools, particularly secondary schools, may have very good academic achievement but need to re-examine how they teach the faith as the percentage of those attending Catholic schools who do not go on to practise their faith seems high
  • Within our parish we are urgently looking at ways to involve children and young people both in the Mass and parish life in general.

Shirley Kalinauckas
(St Edmund’s Parish Synod coordinator)