Journeying together

By: Bp José Luis IMC (Bishop of Manzini)

(Sharing my article for the first issue of our Diocesan Newsletter)

Have you ever wondered why God gave us two ears and one mouth? Many have answered that question in the past by saying (for example) “so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”. Maybe James had this in mind when he wrote: “everyone should be quick to listen but slow to speak” (James 1: 19).

Every few years the Pope gathers bishops from all over the world in what is called a “synod”. The word “synod” is a very beautiful and profound one. It means: “journeying together”. Synods have provided an effective support to the Popes in matters of greater importance for the Church. Thinking of the last ones you might have an idea of the topics addressed:

  •  2014 “Pastoral challenges of the family in the context of the new evangelization
  •  2015 “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world”
  •  2019 “Young people, the Faith and Vocational discernment”
  •  2019 “New paths for the church and for an integral ecology”

Also bishops might call for a “synod” in their dioceses. Bishop Ndlovu OSM did so in 2005.

The topic of the next Synod is: “Synodality” and will be held in 2023. As Pope Francis prepares this gathering of Bishops he asks every diocese in the world to listen to all the baptised. In his address at the Prayer Vigil for the Synod on the Family, he said: “For the Synod Fathers we ask the Holy Spirit first of all for the gift of listening: to listen to God, that with him we may hear the cry of the people”.

Pope Francis places in our hands an amazing challenge: to listen. Our diocese already has some structures for listening like the presbyteral council (when all the clergy come together, three times a year), the diocesan pastoral councils (three times a year) and the parish pastoral councils.

At the same time only the voice of a few find space in these structures. Most of our Catholics’ voice has never been heard, particularly when they are not members of a sodality.

Even more, what about those who have joined other churches or just stay at home? They remain part of the baptised. How can our diocese provide a space for them to talk and for us to listen?

“It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium” Pope Francis said in 2015. In other words, this path of listening and journeying together is not just in preparation for an event that will take place in 2023 but the way God is calling the Church to follow. He does acknowledge though that journeying together is an easy concept to put into words but not so easy to put into practice.

The official opening of this process will take place in the Vatican on 9-10 October 2021. As each bishop is called to locally do so on Sunday 17 October 2021 I will be launching this process at the 11.00 Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption. I ask each parish to send two delegates to this diocesan event to be held at the Cathedral: an adult and a young person. Being a Sunday, our priests will continue with the celebration of Mass in their parishes and outstations.

It is Providential that we are able to place the re-launching of a diocesan newsletter at the very beginning of this process. When I arrive in our diocese in 2012, Fr Christopher Maseko was in charge of “Telibandla”. We now re-launch our diocesan newsletter with a new name and a new format. I am grateful to the team of the diocesan communications’ office for all the work done towards the launching of this first issue. We hope to continue doing so every two months.

I pray it will reflect our journeying together: reflecting in our faith and identity as Catholics, sharing on our initiatives, giving space to those who normally do not have a voice to share their views and much more. It is not a newsletter done by the priests for the laity but it is a mirror of who we are as a Church and an opportunity to listen with our two ears!

+ José Luis Ponce de León IMC
Bishop of Manzini

Click HERE for photos of the celebration