By Ayanda Nkhambule
As a member of the task team, entrusted by our Bishop to facilitate a smooth process of discernment for the people of God within the Diocese of Manzini, let me share the experience.
It all started when the Holy Father, Pope Francis called for a Bishops’ Synod on Synodality in 2023. The process that prepares for it began last year (2021) but in October, our Bishop, Jose Luis Ponce de Leon, launched it at the Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral in Manzini.
A synod in simple terms is a gathering of several people from different walks of life. These people come together to deliberate on a specific topic or problem. Usually, the Pope targets a specific group of people to discuss these topics; for example, in 2018, the Pope called for a synod on the Youth. That means, the topic of discussion was young people in the church and the target group was youth, so they were the ones who participated in discussion in local parishes.
The focus of the current Synod is Synodality. It carries the theme: Communion, Participation and Mission. Pope Francis encourages the church to reflect on this theme. This synod is quite unique; it’s different from those that have been done in the past. This time, the whole church is called to Journey Together.
At the heart of this synod, is the church listening to one another and engaging in a dialogue, reflecting on the journey that has been made and discerning from the Holy Spirit the way we should go. Therefore, this means this synod is not just a gathering of a chosen group of people, for the purpose of engaging in various discussions but it is a spiritual journey that we need to undertake as a church, together in unity.
The Synodal process has already began in our Diocese. Various programmes have been prepared to ensure that every member of the church participates. Currently, there is an online survey, where members of the church are encouraged to answer a few questions, as we reflect on the journey of faith thus far.
Another programme that is ongoing is Home Visits. A group of people from our local parishes have been selected to form part of the synod teams. These people are expected to visit every Catholic home. During these visits, families are requested to come together, and engage in meaningful discussion on various topics, through the guidance of the delegates from the synod teams. Therefore, we humbly request that every Catholic welcome delegates into their homes and actively participate in these discussions, because every voice counts.
Since the target is all Catholics in the Diocese, there are programmes that are in the pipeline. There will be also a programme for our Disabled Community. A platform will be created for them to express themselves and be heard as they reflect on their journey of faith.
Likewise, a platform for Sodalities, Youth and even Refugees will be created. Therefore, the church encourages everyone to participate in this process. Every Catholic is expected to voice out their opinion on the current status of the church and are called to discern the direction we are to take as we move forward.