What is a Synod?

The actual meaning of the word “Synod” is “journeying together” coming from two Greek words (syn hodos) that mean "with (someone) and road"

It is a long-established practice in the Church to use this term for meetings held every now and then where members of the Church come together to review things and make decisions. Pope Francis describes a Synod as a “wonderful experience”, “an intense moment of growth”. Essentially, a Synod is a time and a process of walking together, that is firstly, an event or a destination and secondly, a process or a journey to get us there. Thus, we get the sense of our diocesan community travelling together upon the same road. This experience of church is congruent with one of the most powerful images of church from the Second Vatican Council as a pilgrim people, journeying in a foreign land.

The Synod event itself will be a large three-day meeting with around 400 representatives of the life of faith in this Diocese. Many matters of relevance to life in this Diocese will be discussed enabling the wisdom and experience of all, inspired by the Spirit, to be spoken and heard. 

The official launch of the Synod will take place on December 7th 2014 with a liturgy in St. John’s Cathedral and the actual meeting of the Synod will take place in Spring 2016. Between the launching of the Synod and the 2016 gathering, we will engage in a process of reflection and sharing, catechesis and prayer. It is my hope that this process leading up to the Synod over the next year and a half will involve as many as possible throughout the diocese.  

Decree of Convocation

Having consulted with the College of Consultors, the Priests’ Council and lay members of the Pastoral Areas, I have issued a pastoral letter Together in Mission - A Time to Begin Again, convoking a Diocesan Synod, the first since the 1930s.

The actual meaning of the word “Synod” is “journeying together”. It is a long established practice in the Church to use this term for decisive meetings at significant times where members of the Church come together to review one or more issues and make decisions. Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council and in view both of the multiple challenges facing us as well as the opportunities that contemporary cultural changes afford us, we are at a significant moment in the history of our Diocese. There is clear duty on us to discern carefully together what the Spirit is saying to the Church in Limerick and agree on common goals and actions for the coming years.

In convoking the Synod I am mindful of Pope Francis’ desire that we advance along the path of what he calls “a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are”. We owe this to future generations and to the wider society that we want to serve. Pope Francis explains what he means by pastoral and missionary conversion when he writes, ‘Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says, “We have always done it this way”.’ It means being bold and creative in the task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in our Diocesan community with its various parish and ecclesial, religious and social communities.

As we set out towards the Synod, let’s entrust our journey to Mary, the mother and first disciple of Jesus. Her journey of faith is a model for all Christians. She reminds us to be attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. She knows better than any of us where, in God’s grace and mercy, our journey is ultimately heading – eternal life in the new heaven and new earth that God is preparing for us.