Synodality in the life and mission of the Church - Holy Family Sisters’ Participation in India

The rapid growth in science and technology affects people’s thinking, morality and especially their spirituality. There is a need to change the strategies of evangelisation according to the needs of the time. The Synod is one of those  strategies. In 2015 Pope Francis spoke of a Synodal Church as a church which listens, more than simply hearing, it’s a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. Walking together may bring more connectedness with the people of God.

We understand that synodality means a way, a path or a specific and particular style or method of being church as the people of God. It’s a call for all of us to journey together, listen together, communicate together and do our mission together as one family of God’s people in the Church.

The Synod on Synodality has been a blessing for the Church in India as it has been the largest national exercise – the first of its kind. 129 out of 132 Latin Catholic dioceses across rural, urban and even remote areas of the country participated. The inaugural Eucharistic Celebrations in the dioceses were held in a solemn and elaborate way with some dioceses including leaders of other faiths and traditions. Preparation for the consultations included translation of the documents into 49 local languages. The synod logo and banner were displayed prominently across parishes and institutions and the synod prayer was recited in families and parishes.

Initial skepticism and resistance gave the synodal process a slow start in some dioceses. Paucity of time and the ongoing pandemic situation limited the training of coordinators and outreach to remote areas. While efforts were directed at the more readily available faithful, many of those distanced from the Church could not be included. The organization and facilitation of consultations were led by clergy / religious in many dioceses where lay involvement has not yet come to the fore.

First and foremost this synodality invites us to have right relationship with the cosmic family. We try to re-examine our relationship with the entire creation, with nature. The climatic changes affect life on the earth in numerous ways. These changes are having various impacts on the ecosystem and ecology as the world is now warming faster than at any point in recorded history. As a response to this situation we as a community planted trees for any celebrations or any gatherings in the church and in the community. Though our area is known as perennially drought-prone, and dependent on the monsoon, we took as a challenge to take care of them and given awareness to the children, youth and people around us. Now we are happy to see the youth who always provide saplings to the people to plant them in their surroundings. This will bring bright future and bring changes in our district of Sivagangai.

Secondly it is a renewal for us to re-examine our relationship among us, in our communities and in our local church. After hearing of this synodality the church has taken the effort to invite the people from the laity, consecrated religious and secular members and explained the meaning of communion, participation and mission in the church. Time was given to the entire group to share their views and opinions about our participation and our role in the church. We were amazed to see the open sharing of each one where we experienced the generative listening and creative participation that gives us hope to revitalize our church as people of God. We are aware that to promote more consensus-based decision-making in our communities, in our mission areas we are challenged to move from “command control” model to consensus model.

Thirdly we were inspired to develop more and more transparency in our decision-making, in financial management and in our mission field. It is a reminder for us to live our charism of communion in and around the community and to take steps for transformative action towards our life and mission. This synodality moved us to come out from the attitude of individualism to communion.

Today in our world, there is increased awareness of freedom, autonomy, dignity, human rights etc. As St. Paul says, the church is a body in which all members are bound in a relationship of interdependency and equal dignity, but of course with different gifts and charisms.  This journey together will call on us to renew our mentalities and our ecclesial structures in order to live out God’s call for the Church amid the present signs of the times. Listening to the entire people of God leads us to respect human dignity and give preference for the voiceless and the abandoned.

Our Founder Pierre Bienvenu cultivated the call to renew the Church of his time, to present to the world a God who was near and a Church with a ‘family face’, something for which the first Christian communities have left us a taste. Inspired by God he conceived the plan of a vast Society, something very new for his time. It would welcome within its fold women and men of all conditions and vocations.

All of us are called to live one vocation and that is the vocation to holiness - the baptized Eucharistic Christians. So the synodality discourse is going to change the way all of us participate in building of the church and that is the dream and vision of our founder’s desire - “Have but one heart, one mind, one will – to make Our Lord loved and to win all hearts to him. Then, this good Master will dwell in your midst, and the Holy Family Association, faithful to its mission, will continue to do good upon the earth.”

Unit India