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October 29, 2019
29 Oct 2019

The Acts of the Johannesburg Archdiocesan Synod

THE ACTS OF THE JOHANNESBURG ARCHDIOCESAN SYNOD

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 A Prayer for our Archdiocese

O Lord our God, send forth your Holy Spirit, and renew the face of our Archdiocese!
Grant to our Archbishop and his auxiliary, the gift of wisdom;
To our clergy and religious, understanding,
To our laity and families, counsel;
To our youth and all students, knowledge;
To seminarians and novices, fortitude and perseverance;
To our pastoral councils, piety;
To our political leaders, fear of the Lord;
And to our archdiocese and the entire universal church, unity and love.
O Lord, renew your Holy Spirit within us, and we shall work to renew the face of the earth.
Amen

  1. Preliminary Remarks

The 1997 Instruction on Diocesan Synods, paragraph 3, gives a fairly simple definition of the purpose of a synod: it is to promote communion and mission in the living out of a diocesan community’s identity. Furthermore, the instruction proclaims boldly that “The work of the Synod is to promote acceptance of the Church’s salvific doctrine and to encourage the faithful in their following of Christ, since the Church is “sent into the world to proclaim and bear witness to that communion by which it is constituted, as well as to actualize it and to spread it.”

It was for this purpose that I convoked the second Archdiocesan Synod, 10 years after the Synod of 2008, that I might promote the building up of this community that we call Church, and strengthen my brothers and sisters as they live out their missionary vocation.

Pope Paul VI, of happy memory, in his encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi [para. 14] reminded the Church of her fundamental identity as proclaimer of good news. “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of his death and glorious resurrection.”

The process was entrusted by me to the Synod Preparatory Committee, that they might evaluate the impact of the 2008 Synod on the life of our Archdiocese and parishes, and to survey the people of the Archdiocese on the areas that we needed to focus on now. This survey revealed four key themes which stood out as important, if we were to truly become the kind of Church we aspire to be. The themes were Renewal, Marriage and Family Life; Youth and Missionary Discipleship. Following this step, the Synod Preparatory Committee established subcommittees of experts to prepare reflection and study material on each of the themes. They also summarized the responses of each parish and formulated 5 discussion questions that were to be used in the small group sessions of the Synod.

Four delegates from each parish of the Archdiocese was invited to attend: the priest in charge, the Chairpersons of the Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Youth Forum, and the Synod Champion. This led to a great variety of people being present and participating in the Synod. Their many voices and perspectives were enriching to all of the delegates. The Synod met on the 20th and 21st of September, at the Cathedral of the Archdiocese.

What follows is a summary of each theme prepared by the Synod Preparatory Committee, and the recommendations given to me which I hereby make my own. To give effect to these resolutions I conclude with certain policy decisions which are to be implemented by the various offices of the ordinary administration of the Archdiocese, as well as in our parishes.

  1. Theme Summary: Renewal

Renewal is not about doing what we have always done, just better. Renewal is not simply about putting new and better programs in place, though of course good programs have their place. Renewal is fundamentally about a change of culture, a new vision, an appropriation of the values of the gospel and a living out of them so that we are transformed, our families are transformed and our parish communities are transformed. Ezekiel 36 says “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Pope Francis proposes a model of church which is not content with ‘things as we have always done them’, but which is ‘bold and creative …in rethinking goals, structures, styles and methods of evangelisation’ (Evangeli Gaudium 33), a church which is ‘out on the streets…rather than clinging to its own security’ (EG 49), unafraid of change and renewal, responsible and accountable.

The parishes of our Archdiocese are thirsting for the Spirit that brings about new life, that will transform us, that will give us new hearts. They have identified four areas in particular that need renewal: Spiritual growth, faith formation, liturgical celebration and community life.

The spiritual resources of our tradition are many, both for the individual and the community in their spiritual quest.  Fostering the spiritual life of the community is a prime responsibility of the parish leadership. Without prayer and the deepening of the relationship of ‘the vine and the branches’, neither ‘shoots nor fruits’ can be expected.

Without a personal knowledge of and relationship with Jesus, members of the community remain lukewarm in their participation and practice. Engagement with the scriptures, the living word of God, can bring people into such a relationship, which is the basis of our teaching, liturgical practice and ministry. We need a commitment to a life-long and ongoing formation program which will help us to deepen our knowledge of the faith of our Church and help us to mature in our relationship with God.

The manner in which our liturgies are enacted has the potential to engage- or not- the life, faith and imagination of the faithful. Well planned and executed liturgical celebrations can deepen our understanding of faith and draw us more deeply into its mysteries. It’s weekly and seasonal rhythms, its initiatory rites, even its funeral services can deepen our love of Christ and form us as more attentive and compassionate members of his Body. Those who serve the liturgy as its ministers must be well prepared to render this service to the entire community. The activities of the Church, pre-eminently the liturgy, should create moments of greater connection with God, so that spiritual renewal and conversion can occur.

There is a great need for parish communities that are open and welcoming to all, irrespective of gender, language, race, national origin or socio-economic class. An important concern which has been raised is the need to resolve racial, economic and social divisions in the Church.

At the heart of the theme on Renewal is the question of how we can achieve culture change in our parish, in the four aspects mentioned, not simply as ends in themselves, but to help us live out our baptismal identity as missionary disciples of Christ.

Renewal Resolutions

  1. Formation:
    1. A program of ongoing and life-long formation should be implemented across the diocese.
    2. There should be a common syllabus and practice in sacramental preparation.
  • Resources should be dedicated to formation, such as libraries, and information about good online resources should be publicized.
  1. Community:
    1. Structures in the parish such as PPC’s, should be properly trained and their role in the parish and their relationship to the pastor of each parish should be clearly understood.
    2. Parish leadership, both clerical and lay, should undergo diversity training so that they are able to minister to diverse groups of peoples.
  • Structures and processes should be implemented to ensure that our parishes are experienced as places of welcome.
  1. Liturgy:
    1. There should be greater emphasis on preparing for the liturgy and liturgical ministers must have the appropriate training.
    2. Differences in context have implications for ministry, e.g. township versus suburbs, not only in liturgy but also in the kind of groups that exist, and the challenges that each one presents. Formation of leaders should take this into account.
  • A greater use of scripture should be encouraged in homilies, and a clear connection drawn between the message of scripture and its implications for our daily lives.
  1. Spiritually:
    1. There should be retreats which combine both a spiritual renewal and a catechetical aspect, such as deepening ones understanding of scripture.
    2. Parishioners are encouraged to prepare for the liturgy by reading and praying the Sunday liturgy.
  1. Theme Summary: Youth

In the original survey of parishes, approximately 75% of parish respondents highlighted the importance of ministry to youth, concerned that the Church is having great difficulty in retaining youth members post confirmation. There seems to be a lack of engagement between authorities/structure in parishes and the youth, who find welcome and connection in other denominational churches. The Apostolic Exhortation “Christus vivit “, by Pope Francis, reminds us of what the Word of God says about and to young people. He writes “Let us also keep in mind that Jesus had no use for adults who looked down on the young or lorded it over them.  On the contrary, he insisted that “the greatest among you must become like the youngest” (Lk 22:26).  For him age did not establish privileges and being young did not imply lesser worth or dignity.”

The conclusion of many youth is that youth do not find our parishes places of welcome, where their own particular giftedness is appreciated, and their voices heard. In other words, our spaces are not youth-friendly. We can have the best youth formation programs in the world, but unless we can actually get the youth from the street into the pew, and from the pew into our youth structures, whatever those may be, those youth formation programs are a waste of time and energy.

The first step is simply getting youth into the Church. The second step is giving them a reason to stay. We do that by including youth, visibly and significantly, in both leadership and all activities of the Church, including liturgical and ministerial. We do that by providing vibrant and life-giving liturgies, with homilies that are focus more on the life of discipleship than on how sinful we are. It is said that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, or put differently, it is impossible to drive people into the arms of Christ with the lash of fear. It is only love and compassion that draws people into his embrace. Does this attitude characterise our relationship with the youth? Is this how we as clergy, catechists and members of the community relate with one another as the lived example of people of faith?

Youth ministry can be said to be a ministry of accompaniment. We stand with and journey with our youth as they face the many challenges that life throws their way. Youth occupy a liminal or in-between space in the world. They are not children, but not yet adult. They have minds of their own but their opinions are often dismissed. They grapple with questions of identity in a world which denies the validity of their feelings and experiences. Their liminality often renders them invisible, and consequently worthless. How can we both “see” our youth, and let them know that they have been “seen”?

Youth Resolutions

 Youth leadership in the parish should be structured with roles clearly defined, with mentorship made available to youth leaders. Mentors should be made aware that their role is to journey alongside the youth, without usurping their leadership role. We repeat the resolutions of the 2008 Synod, that each parish should have a Parish Youth Forum, that the Chair of the PYF is an ex-officio member of the PPC, and that a monthly youth mass be instituted.

  1. While recognising the specificity of youth, they should be integrated into all structures and ministries of the parish. While a key component of parish life should be ministry to youth, we must also encourage ministry by youth, to fellow youth and the wider parish community.
  2. Youth ministry should be adequately resourced, with trained personnel.
  3. The culture of exclusion and adult privilege needs to be challenged, so that the youth can take up appropriate roles within the parish.
  4. It is important to establish and promote communication and integration across barriers of race, language, culture and geographical location.
  5. Steps should be taken to ensure that parishes form communities of welcome where youth can receive psychological and emotional support.

 

  1. Theme Summary: Marriage and Family Life

There is a recognition by all of our parishes of the challenges facing Christian marriage today, and a great desire by the local church to support marriage. What might that mean for us today? Areas that were mentioned in the parish survey are marriage preparation prior to marriage, addressing honestly the clash between the traditional idea of marriage as process and the Christian understanding of marriage as sacrament. There is also the desire for the Church to be more accepting of the diversity and complexity of the modern family.

One cannot address this theme without situating marriage and family life within its broader socio-economic context. The Church is not, in the vision of St Augustine, a city on a hill, separate from the world. Christians are fish that swim in a secular sea, they breathe the same air as their atheist, Jewish and Muslim neighbours. What aspects of our broken society need to be healed in order to provide a nurturing environment for children? What can the Church do in order to adequately form children growing up in fatherless homes? How does institutionalised patriarchy affect how we see and treat women?

In the preparatory document distributed to participants prior to the Synod there is a long list of ways in which the church can be more family centred, and an even longer list of challenges in the areas of relationships, social issues and faith. The heart of our discussion on this theme is how we can make our parishes places of welcome for families, and what we can do to support them in the light of the challenges they face. Our support has to go beyond the conveniences of a family friendly liturgy, no matter how important that is, to challenging and changing our ways of thinking and aspects of our culture which stand as obstacles to each man, woman and child living with the dignity of the sons and daughters of God. What structures and processes will help us do so?

Marriage and Family Life Resolutions

  1. The establishment of and resourcing of marriage and family life ministry at archdiocesan and parish level is crucial.
  2. Education about and promotion of marriage as a sacrament needs to be promoted.
  3. The archdiocese and parishes should access professional services to provide a better level of support for this ministry. Parish data bases should be established, maintained, and used to recruit volunteers with the necessary skills in this area.
  4. The role of woman in the church needs to be examined, and ways found to listen to their voice, at all levels of the archdiocese.
  5. The archdiocese and parishes need to put in place policies and structures that will ensure the health and safety of children, youth and women by developing and implementing safeguarding practices.

 

  1. Theme Summary: Missionary Discipleship

The theme of missionary discipleship poses the question: what is our mission as the Church, what does it mean for us to be missionary disciples in today’s world? Connected to the theme of renewal would be what kind of Church best helps us produce missionary disciples for Christ. The New Evangelisation promoted by St Pope John Paul II is rooted in a welcoming parish, is dependent upon it. Also mentioned is the call by Pope Francis to become a Church that exists to serve and not to be served. There is to some extent an overlap between renewal and missionary discipleship, as the fruits of renewal should be evident in the missionary discipleship of the Christian.

Missionary discipleship, to quote from the resource documents, is being faithful to the ‘great commission’ in Matthew 28:19-20, i.e. evangelising and/or re-evangelising non-Christians and lapsed Catholics, as well as carrying the love of Christ to the needy and marginalised. Missionary disciples need to be evangelised and formed themselves, through reception of the Sacraments of Initiation, and through faithful commitment to, and growth, in relationship with Christ. Ongoing formation, both intellectual and spiritual, is vital to the development of missionary disciples.

A number of parishes mentioned the need for better leadership in the Church, recognising that without well-formed leaders, both clerical and lay, the mission of the Church is unachievable.

Missionary Discipleship Resolutions

  1. Formation programs:
    1. Catechetical programs that are new, innovative and sensitive to local conditions should be implemented.
    2. A program of ongoing formation for all parishioners should be designed and implemented, with a focus both on youth and adults.
  • Catechetical programs need to make clear the link between faith and the imperative to be missionary disciples.
  1. Structure and administration:
    1. Opportunities to meet more frequently as the Church of the Archdiocese should be encouraged. It is therefore resolved that the period between Archdiocesan Synods be reduced from every 10 years to every 5 years.
    2. A process or mechanism for ongoing evaluation be established, with both self-evaluation and external evaluation components.
  • A communications strategy for the Archdiocese and Parishes be established that will facilitate better communications between the Archdiocese and the people of the Archdiocese, overcoming the communication bottlenecks that occur.
  1. More women be appointed to roles of leadership within the archdiocese.
  1. Deepening understanding of the nature of Missionary Discipleship.
    1. Through exposure to the divine renovation program
    2. Through formation
  • Through use of appropriate social media
  1. Through parish visits by members of missionary congregations
  1. Parishes are encouraged to reach out to marginalized groups in the Church and in the community, particularly the unchurched, lapsed Catholics, the sick, prisoners, LGBTI, and those living in squatter camps.
  2. To build spiritual foundations for the work of missionary discipleship through retreat work and devotional activities such as the mission rosary and eucharistic adoration.

 

  1. Policy decisions to give effect to the above resolutions

  2. The Synod Preparatory Committee, which I rename the Synod Monitoring and Implementation Committee, is given the responsibility of evaluating the implementation of the Synod resolutions, providing support to parishes in the implementation thereof, and preparing for me an annual progress report. I also appoint the Vicar General, Fr. Paul Beukes OMI, to the committee, to ensure that communication and coordination is facilitated across all levels of the Archdiocese.
  3. 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, especially as it pertains to youth, and through a process of engagement establish what those resolutions might mean for the youth, how they might be applied practically in our parishes, and what new initiatives might come from it.
  4. The department of Evangelisation will continue its program of educating PPC’s about their roles and responsibilities in the parish, as well as ensuring that the Archdiocesan policy for the safeguarding of Children is implemented in each parish in the Archdiocese.
  5. A panel of experts for marriage and family life will propose a structure and programs for the reestablishment of this ministry at an Archdiocesan level, and its strengthening at a parish level. It will also provide resource materials regarding diversity training, and suggest possible organisations and experts which could be used. This panel will do so under the guidance and direction of the new Synod Monitoring and Implementation Committee. This work must be concluded no later than February 2020.
  6. After a process of consultation, the department of Catechetics will propose a model of life-long, ongoing formation for the Archdiocese, where each component is clearly articulated, as well as their intersections. This should cover not only the catechetical program for sacramental preparation, but also youth programs and marriage and family life. This model is to be as expansive and inclusive in scope as possible. The Episcopal Vicar will assemble a permanent technical committee which will not only advise him but also assist in the implementation of the model. This should happen no later than February 2020.
  7. The department of Communications is to assess the effectiveness of the current communication policies and strategies of the Archdiocese and propose new and additional ways of communicating so that we as an archdiocese may achieve better the ends of building community and proclaiming Christ to the world. It should do this by gathering experts from across the Archdiocese to form a permanent technical committee to guide the department in this work of renewal and to assist in its implementation. This report and proposal should be presented to me no later than February 2020.
  8. The department of Liturgy must continue with its work of equipping different ministerial groups with the skills they need in order to enrich the liturgical life of the parishes. Ongoing formation of the clergy in this regard should be included in activities of the department. The Episcopal Vicar will assemble a permanent technical committee consisting of qualified experts in this field who will not only advise him but also assist the department in the development of training programs and materials. This committee should be assembled and functioning no later than February 2020.
  9. Each parish will establish a Caritas Forum which will be the umbrella body for all groups in the parish carrying out the works of mercy and justice. It will have, amongst others, representatives of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Justice and Peace, Migrants and Refugees, Environmental Justice and any other group involved in charitable works. The Caritas Forum will enable better communications, sharing of resources and coordinated action across groups in a parish and across the Archdiocese. This must be done no later than February 2020.

The Synod Resolutions and the policy decisions above are to be read together, for together they articulate my will for the renewal of the life of the Archdiocese and each parish therein. The responsibility for the implementation of these resolutions is not the clergy’s alone. It is shared by the leadership of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, Deanery Pastoral Councils and Parish Pastoral Councils. The Synod Champions, who are ex-officio members of their PPC’s, bear a particular responsibility for the living out of the spirit of this Synod in each parish. They are the institutional memory of this singular event and in the deliberations of their PPC’s are to remind the members of what has been resolved. They will be particularly supportive of the parish priest and PPC chair in the annual implementation review which I require each parish to do.

I wish to conclude by acknowledging the work of planning, consultation and implementation done by the Synod Planning Committee consisting of Mr. Roy Lailvaux, the chairperson, and the members Sr. Juliana Abioye EHJ, Fr. Bruce Botha SJ, Mr. Odilon Molapo, Mrs. Emily Morely, and Rev. Gerald Rodrigues. I am grateful to them for all they have done over the past eighteen months, and are yet to do for the Archdiocese in their new role on the Synod Monitoring and Implementation Committee.

I hereby promulgate the resolutions of the 2019 Archdiocesan Synod and make them my own. I urge the Clergy and Religious of the diocese, particularly those entrusted with the care the parishes of the Archdiocese to study this document and to implement the resolutions contained therein to the best of their abilities in the local faith communities entrusted to them.

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+Buti Tlagale OMI, Archbishop of Johannesburg