An Invitation to Become Synodal- Retreat at Home

A short time after each parish in the diocese had responded to Pope Francis’s invitation to reflect on how well we, as a church, are travelling together, a few words suggesting a synodal “retreat at home” appeared in a diocesan newsletter. This idea stirred something within Hermit Rachel Denton and Deacon Andrew Crowley (both within the parish of St Catherine’s) , and after much work with Diocesan Formation & Mission team, they developed a “Retreat at Home” based on what synodality means for us. This retreat was piloted in St Catherine’s and St Patrick’s. The material was available online via the diocesan website, and each week there was something new to watch, to listen to, to pray about and to reflect upon.

The retreat was loosely based upon the Ignatian retreat at home, with the ‘retreatants’ being given a piece of scripture each week to reflect upon, noting what moved and challenged them. In addition to these texts there was also some material relating to what it means to be synodal. Each week we would meet and listen to each other as we shared our responses to these texts. These meetings took place within a synodal environment, i.e. all respectfully listening to each other, and noting what moved us. There was little discussion, lots of silences and time to listen and sense the Spirit at work.

The retreat fell naturally into 2 parts. The first focussed on what it means to be synodal whilst the second focussed on our responses to the diocesan report in particular pages 5 to 8.

During the first part we began to understand what it means to be synodal, and how the church has had a tradition of listening to itself, especially when big decisions need to be made e.g. Acts 15. Dr Austin Ivereigh, through the videos from London Jesuit Centre, was our guide, and challenged us to appreciate the significance of being synodal.

One of the pictures that was shared during our reflections illustrates what we experienced. On the surface there is tranquillity and calm, but beneath there is activity, energy and some turmoil as the swan’s legs propel her serenely across the water.  There was a balance between the tranquility and the turmoil.

As we walked together during this part of the retreat we developed new ways of listening to each other, by listening to the day’s gospel and sharing our responses. At the end we rested together in silence as we listened to some music relevant to the particular focus of the meeting. 

At the end of the day we experienced a communion of hearts, a symphony of different voices, sounds, rhythms, moods and textures, a song of praise to God our Father.

We hope that you will use the material in a creative way and develop your own style and approach to it.

The Diocese is hosting a taster session for all those interested in running this retreat in their parish on 3 February at 10am at the Pastoral Centre for all those who would like to run the retreat in their parish situation.