Johannesburg Synod Vows To Make New Resolutions Real
A lesson from the Johannesburg archdiocesan synod ten years ago is that unless you identify structures to assist in implementation, documents just remain idealistic words, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI of Johannesburg said.
This year’s synod took place from September 20-21 at Cathedral Place in Berea, and Archbishop Tlhagale has since released the acts of the synod.
In preparation, he entrusted the Synod Monitoring and Implementation Committee to evaluate the impact of the 2008 Synod on the life of the archdiocese and parishes, and survey people on the areas that need focus.
The survey revealed four key themes that stood out as important.
They were renewal, youth, marriage and family life, and missionary discipleship. The synod then listed policies aimed at effecting change on these themes.
“Renewal is fundamentally about a change of culture, a new vision, an appropriation of the values of the Gospel and living them out so that we are transformed,” Archbishop Tlhagale said.
Four areas in particular were identified that need renewal: spiritual growth, faith formation, liturgical celebration, and community life.
Among the list of resolutions under the renewal theme was a programme of ongoing and lifelong formation implemented across the diocese, with a common syllabus and practice in sacramental preparation.
PPC members, for example, should be properly trained, and their role in the parish and relationship to their priest clearly understood.
“There seems to be a lack of engagement between authorities/structures in parishes and the youth, who find welcome and connection in other denominations’ churches,” Archbishop Tlhagale said.
He noted that the first step is getting youth into the Church, and then giving them a reason to stay.
While a key component of parish life should be a ministry to youth, the archbishop said ministry by youth must also be encouraged, and parishes should form communities of welcome where youth can receive psychological and emotional support.
Marriage and family life
“There is a recognition by all parishes of the challenges facing Christian marriage today, and a great desire by the local Church to support marriage,” the archbishop noted.
Areas mentioned in the parish survey were preparation before marriage, addressing the clash between the traditional idea of marriage as a process and the Christian understanding of marriage as a sacrament, and the desire for the Church to be more accepting of the diversity and complexity of the modern family.
Archbishop Tlhagale also said the role of women in the Church needs to be examined, along with ways to listen to their voices.
“Missionary disciples need to be evangelised and formed themselves,” the archbishop said.
Among the list of resolutions was reducing the period between archdiocesan synods from every 10 years to every five years.
Parishes are also encouraged to reach out to marginalised groups in the Church and in the community, particularly the unchurched, lapsed Catholics, the sick, prisoners, LGBTI individuals, and those living in squatter camps.
Archbishop Tlhagale concluded with policy decisions to be implemented by the archdiocese as well as parishes. Many are to be reported back on by February 2020.
Among them was that the Synod Monitoring and Implementation Committee has the responsibility of evaluating the implementation of synod resolutions, providing support to parishes in implementing them, and preparing an annual progress report.
The Department of Evangelisation and the Youth Department will jointly convene a meeting of representatives of all youth in the archdiocese, to convey to them the resolutions of the synod, and establish what those resolutions might mean for the youth.
The Department of Evangelisation will continue its programme of educating PPCs, as well as ensuring that the archdiocesan policy for the safeguarding of children is implemented in each parish.
A panel of experts for Marriage and Family Life will reestablish this ministry at archdiocesan level, and strengthen it at parish level. It will also provide resource materials regarding diversity training.
After a process of consultation, the Department of Catechetics will propose a model of lifelong, ongoing formation for the archdiocese. This model is to be as expansive and inclusive in scope as possible.
The Department of Communications will assess the effectiveness of communication policies and strategies, and propose new ways of communicating.
The Department of Liturgy will continue its work of equipping different ministerial groups with the skills they need to enrich the liturgical life of parishes. Ongoing formation of clergy in this regard should be included in activities of the department.
Each parish will establish a Caritas Forum which will be the umbrella body for all groups in the parish carrying out works of mercy and justice. It will have, among others, representatives of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Justice & Peace, Migrants and Refugees, Environmental Justice, and any other group involved in charitable works.
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