Fr Eliaza Mulemba CSSp reflects on the July 18–20 Priests Meeting in Mayaro
Ever been to a retreat where the very journey to the venue of the retreat is the beginning of the retreat? That was the Mayaro experience!
Everything that we did beginning from preparing to travel and the travelling to Mayaro itself was the retreat.
Indeed, in the Mayaro Retreat every experience, perception, feeling, movement, and thought was prized. It was indeed, ‘The Experience’. The cherishing of everybody’s experience, the openness to interaction and sharing all initiated the discernment process in the journey of synodality.
This makes the point clear that in the synodal journey nothing is to be left out or ignored, every little thing is to be synthesised in the spirit of synodality. The experiences of the young and the old, and in the words of the Second Vatican Council all “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” (Gaudium et Spes-preface). Thus, in the Clergy Meeting in Mayaro (July 18–20) the presence and contributions of the shepherds of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain and all that they represent or carry with them were prized because they constitute the journey to true synodality.
It is to this extent that even what became the ‘tool kit’ as in the commissioning of the shepherds to the re-reading of the synodal synthesis and preparing for pre-synodal meetings was formed by what the shepherds discussed and came up with in different group discussions.
And this was ritually presented and offered at the closing Mass together with the gifts of bread and wine so that they could be transformed into concrete avenues of living a truly synodal life in our parishes and in the Archdiocese.
This Mayaro experience was a time for praying, listening, reflecting, and discerning together to work at nourishing relationships. It was designed, as I would personally understand, to support us as we examine and explore the situations that brought us to where we are as Church, understanding it from the responses of the people of God.
At first, some of the responses would have sparked us as really challenging but through the process of listening to others and being listened to as it happened in the Mayaro experience, we have been called to bless every response and experience for all is relevant and ask that divine will and understanding be granted to us and the people we shepherd.
As we pray, listen, reflect, and discern we realised that this cannot happen without the powerful intervention of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, openness, docility, and availability to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and allowing the ‘thread of the Spirit’ to unfold as some would have put it are all of paramount importance.
The working of the Holy Spirit is indispensable to unlock the mystery of our synod experience.
I am certain that the Mayaro experience gave us the opportunity to integrate our experiences, feelings, thoughts, doubts, fears, emotions, energies and aspirations into our vocation and ministry to live them better as Archbishop Jason Gordon reaffirmed us all in his homily during the closing Mass. He stated that we are called to be priests in this time, this age and in this world.
In a sense, the Mayaro experience launched a slow journey of discernment to true synodality in which we can be sure that love is always around us, real brotherhood is always around us, and we must often tap from that love and brotherhood.