It is a long established practice in the Church to use the term ‘Synod’ for decisive meetings at significant times where members of the Church come together to review one or more issues and make decisions.
Over 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 Archdiocese.
There is clear duty on us to discern carefully together what the Spirit is saying to the Church in the Archdiocese of Liverpool and agree on common goals and actions for the coming years.
Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool
The challenge is enormous but we know that while a cold wind puts out a small fire, it only fans the flames of a great one, making it into a blazing beacon.
Following thousands of submissions and practical proposals from the Archdiocese of Liverpool’s Synod, which looked at our present realities and our challenges for the future as we strive towards “Becoming the Church God is calling us to be”, our Pastoral Plan was developed.
The plan is devised of three sections:
My name is Paul Whelan and I am one of the church managers here at Blessed Sacrament. I’m just going to take a few minutes of your time to update you on what is happening regarding the implementation of the Pastoral Plan that the Archdiocese published as a result of the Synod held in 2020.
As part of implementing the Pastoral Plan, last year the Archbishop re-grouped all the parishes of the diocese into 13 new deaneries. Blessed Sacrament is one of 12 parishes that form the North Liverpool Deanery.
At the beginning of December last year, Father Stephen asked me to be the representative of Blessed Sacrament on the new Deanery Synodal Council for our deanery. The creation of these Deanery Synodal Councils is another part of implementing the Pastoral Plan. Each of the parishes in our Deanery was invited to select a parishioner to be a member of the Deanery Synodal Council. As well as the lay members of the Council, the Dean (Fr John Southworth), another priest and one permanent deacon are also members. The role of each Council member is to ensure that your voice and the voices of all our parish communities are heard. Our common task is to ensure that the Pastoral Plan is not a document that is read by the few and ignored by the many but is in fact a living document, a catalyst, that supports us in ‘becoming the Church God is calling us to be.’
The Pastoral Plan is very clear. As an Archdiocese ‘we cannot continue as we have been doing – we have to find new ways to do the work of the Gospel in the light of our changed circumstances’. It is no longer possible for any one parish to have all the resources needed in terms of people, skills, buildings or money to do all that must be done. When we use the phrase ‘becoming the Church God is calling us to be’ it does not mean that we are going to abandon all that we currently love about our parishes. Rather this is an opportunity to take stock, to celebrate what is going well in each of our parishes and try to make them even better. At the same time however, we also need to look at those things in our parishes that are maybe not working as well as we would hope or perhaps are no longer fit for purpose. We must ask ourselves, are there people in our parishes that do not feel that they have a part to play, or do not feel welcome? What can each of us do, to ensure that we become a fully inclusive community, one in which the needs of our whole, diverse, parish community are considered? How can we work with other parishes in our deanery to deliver the work of the Church?
This may be a painful process, but Jesus was quite clear. In the Parable of the Fig Tree, Jesus instructed the owner of the fig tree to ‘cut it down’ as it was no longer bearing any fruit. We must have the courage to look at our parishes in the same way. We must trust that with Jesus at the centre of all that we do, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, our parishes will become inclusive, welcoming places for all, ‘bearing much fruit’.
How all of this might look in practical terms and exactly how we will be inviting you to get involved in the future is still uncertain and may very well be different in each parish. We have just started to collect together information on each parish in the deanery to see if we can identify areas that need to be looked at. I need to stress that Council members do not have all the answers!
Implementing the Pastoral Plan at the Deanery and Parish level is the work of the whole parish community. We are all called to use our God given talents, gifts and skills to help our parishes to flourish and grow. Each one of us can play our part in helping this parish in ‘becoming the Church God has called us to be’.
This will be a journey in faith that we all take together. We trust that God will continue to guide and support us and we ask each of you for your much needed prayers, co-operation and involvement going forward.
Thank you and God bless.
NOTE : The pastoral plan can be found at liverpoolpastoralplan.org.uk
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