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November 12, 2023

Building community: a clarion call

On November 18, over 600 Catholics gathered at the Centre of Excellence to deepen the synodal experience. Priests, members of parish councils, Ministry Animation Teams, finance councils, youth, religious, and lay ecclesial communities—all making up the body of Christ.

We entered into Conversation in the Spirit, a spiritual tool that Pope Francis introduced as foundational to the synod process, around tables of ten persons. Many people commented on the great consolation they experienced on that day. That was a sign of the Holy Spirit at work in the assembly.

What follows is the first of three reports from the day.

The Holy Spirit is the protagonist in building community, inclusivity, and dialogue. Our journey together needs more openness to the Spirit’s action in and amongst us.

We need the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22–23), since building community requires love. It also requires evangelisation and building strong families. The scripture passage: “Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today” (Lk 19:5) gives a sense of urgency to the invitation. We are on mission, we are called to mission, to reach out to those in other communities.

One fruit of the conversation was a willingness to listen and to be open with each other and to recognise and respond to the needs of others. This is a genuine spiritual movement which led participants to express a desire to forgive, and to continue on their spiritual journeys together, despite being at different places and from different parishes.

A second grace of the Holy Spirit was an overwhelming sense of gratitude for God’s goodness which led participants to express a readiness to be more generous to others.

The third grace was compassion. We were asked to show compassion, even when disagreeing. This requires being a generous presence to the other, willing to unite ourselves to the experience of another.

These three graces or movements speak to the genuineness of the conversation. Contrition, gratitude, and compassion are authentic spiritual movements and signs of communal consolation.

To enter more deeply we need humility to consciously surrender to the Holy Spirit every day, allowing the Spirit to lead us to the community and family that God wants us to become.

Only humility will help us to recognise the universality of the Church. The Church is God’s family, we include all and exclude none, showing love and treating everyone equally.

We must learn to see “the other” as important. Then, we will put community above self which, it was emphasised, is vital for the way forward. This is a call to mission, as we all seek to serve others in the journey to Christ.

This community was envisaged, by virtue of our Baptism, as an all-ministerial community —everyone’s gifts and abilities are seen as crucial for the building up of the body of Christ (Eph 4: 1–16).

The gathering made a special plea for youth to participate and share their gifts. They are not just the future; they are the present reality of our Church.

Here, a “spirituality of belonging” is important. We belong to God and to each other. For this, we need to dare to share our hurts and wounds so healing can begin, and solutions discerned. We also need to create an ecosystem of holy moments, making small sacrifices daily with joy, so we become channels and not obstacles to grace.

We need a deeper, more consistent spirituality, gained by acceptance of God’s Will, deepening our prayer, and lived faith, and keeping the Word of God deeply rooted in our hearts, not just at Mass but as part of our daily spiritual practice. Through attention to the spiritual life, we will know God’s love and make God’s love known; find our identity as part of the Body of Christ; involve our youth actively in the Church; and spread love: we will be a people on mission.


In Conclusion

The primary focus of the conversation revolved around fostering a cohesive, spiritually vibrant, and inclusive community within the Church. It emphasised the pivotal role of the Holy Spirit in guiding individuals and the community towards unity, love, and compassion.

The text of the report on building community stresses the importance of practising faith beyond the confines of religious gatherings, and emphasises the need for its practical application in daily life.

Inclusivity, especially in engaging the youth, and recognising diversity as an asset within the community, is highlighted. Challenges within the Church, including handling disagreements, and the necessity for change, are acknowledged.

Overall, the ongoing journey of building a compassionate, inclusive, and spiritually aligned community, guided by the Holy Spirit is underscored.

The report makes obvious the following:

1) We need to deepen our relationship with the Holy Spirit, as we continue to journey along the synodal path.

2) Each parish needs to host a gathering of its people in ministry, allowing for a Conversation in the Spirit, to deepen the dialogue.

3) We need to engage all Catholics in spiritual practices that assist in learning the dispositions of discernment, e.g. The Examen, as a night prayer so our people learn to discern the interior movements of the day.

4) In the parish and Archdiocese, we need to call people forth to discern their gifts and to learn to offer them generously, for the building up of the Body of Christ.

If we all take responsibility to grow spiritually and build community together, what a great Church we will be.

Scripture Reading: Eph 4:1–16