Last week as well as celebrating Hope University Graduations and waving off pilgrims to Lourdes we were hard at work compiling together all the Cathedral parish responses to the Synod questions and the summaries of the parish discussions which were due to be sent in.
Over the whole Diocese 1,300 people filled in the online survey as well as over 500 filling in the online youth survey. The organisers estimate that almost 30,000 people filled in questionnaires through their parish communities. A Team at Hope University will be analysing all the data which will be taken to the Synod working party who will discern the next steps.
The Synod team here at the Cathedral have had a chance to review all our responses before sending them into the central office in order to get a general picture of the issues locally. It is probably no surprise to find that family life, friends, church/community and health were the main things that people had responded as the things that were good about their life. A few of our more senior participants were singing the praises of retirement and there were 5 that responded that there was nothing good at all about their life!
More surprising were the general concerns that people had. The biggest concern was to do with the state of the country, the possible repercussions of Brexit and threats to do with wider international issues. Then came worries about changes in the church, lack of priests and closures of places of worship and noticeable decline of faith. Then worries regarding opportunities for our young people and issues around their formation in the catholic faith.
Finally, there was a considerable number of comments regarding the environment and personal health, and references to fears about violence in the community and also loneliness.
In terms of themes that people would like to be considered as priorities for the Diocese for the future. One area was more public participation in the life of the church such as wider involvement of people in decision making and the church having a more active role in the community. The next main theme concerned developing a greater engagement with young people and providing help and opportunities for them to have a more active participation in church life. The third area concerned the whole area of acceptance of diversity, tolerance and welcome within the life of the church particularly with regard to divorced and other groups who feel judged by the church or on the fringe of church life. Another theme centred around faith development and opportunities for understanding the scriptures and church teaching. The final two themes focussed on hopes for further steps to unity with other Christians and issues concerning priesthood only being open to celibate men. These were the main results of our local consultations the themes may be more varied when the more complex analysis is done of all the data throughout the Diocese but it is a useful local snapshot.
This is the week of the Diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage please join in prayer and spirit this week with all who have gone to Lourdes by reciting this prayer each day to Our Blessed Lady.
O Holy Virgin, in the midst of your days of glory, do not forget the sorrows of this earth. Cast a merciful glance upon those who are suffering, struggling against difficulties, with their lips constantly pressedagainst life’s bitter cup. Have pity on those who love each other and are separated. Have pity on our rebellious hearts. Have pity on our weak faith. Have pity on those who weep, on those who pray, on those who fear. Grant hope and peace to all. (Abbé Perreyve).
Canon Anthony O’Brien