Philippines: A Catholic parish journeys together, living synodality
By Rechilda Estores
The Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish (OLSHP) in Citihomes Subdivision, Brgy. Molino IV, City of Bacoor, Cavite, Philippines is a Catholic church that has been actively pursuing synodal activities since 2021 to apply and promote the concept of synodality in response to the invitation of Pope Francis for dialogue and communion in the Church.
"Synodality denoted the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the Church, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in an assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel." – International Theological Commission (ITC)
Pope Francis has called on local churches to reflect, to continue on the path of Church renewal as proposed by the Second Vatican Council.
With this, the OLSHP formulated its mission and conducted a Parochial Synodal Consultation, a series of dialogues with the different sectors of the communities in the parish. Some of the participants include laborers, overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s), church leaders, officials of pastoral areas, ministries and mandated movements, and others.
Rev. Fr. Roni Fernandis, MSFS, OLSHP parish priest, said that synodality is important because it will help the people journey together with the Church and God.
"Synodality is the way of being the Church. Synodality itself is the word of journeying with the Church which is the pilgrim. We are journeying with the Church and our ultimate life is with God and that journey should be guided by the power and presence of God," Fr. Fernandis explained.
He believes that the OLSHP synodal consultation will help the people to unite in journeying together with the Church.
"It is the communion. Just like a family, if it journeys together, it will contribute so much to its own wellbeing and welfare. Synodality will help those who are broken from the Church to the great extent to come back to the Church and that is how the Church will find ways and means on how to welcome all these people journey together without letting anyone get lost in the way." Fr. Fernandis said.
Renewed sense of mission and participation
Fr. Fernandis emphasized that the significance of synodality is that people will be oriented in their missions and participation in the Church.
"The people will be oriented towards the communion and the mission because there are people who are not aware of their missions and their participation,’’ he said.
He also expressed how it was an inspiring and touching experience for him to have poor parishioners join the synodal consultation.
"We went to the poorest of [the] poor and consulted them on how they felt, are considered, welcomed, and listened to. That feeling itself is so inspiring and touching that there are so many people who are just waiting for us to listen to them." Fr. Fernandis explained.
Sharing and inspiring
One of the participants of the OLSHP synodal consultation was Rodolfo Cenas, a 41-year-old parishioner who had been inactive as a Catholic but who, nevertheless, attended the consultation through an invitation of his friend. He said it was a memorable experience for him.
"I was invited by a friend who is dear to me and was paying respect to an invitation, so I attended. It was memorable when we were sharing experiences during the pandemic crisis and hearing from them on how they survived," Cenas said.
Listening and dialoguing opens minds
The dialogues changed his perspective in life and strengthened his faith to seek more about God.
"It changed my perception by hearing some of their stories on how they keep their faith in God. It makes me more eager to know more about God and read more about God’s words," Cenas said.
Another OLSHP synodal consultation participant was Maria Ethelyn Contreras, a parish music coordinator. She is also a church choir member and music minister for 21 years and has been serving the parish for 17 years.
After attending the consultation and dialogues, she said she had several new realizations and inspiring moments.
Openness to the Spirit
"Synodality makes the community realize the beauty of listening to the Holy Spirit when discerning. Also, it is inspiring because I’ve heard other participant’s share their experiences in life journeying with the Church," Contreras said.
She said she was uplifted by the sharing of her fellow participants knowing that the Church is there with them when they struggle in life.
"It’s uplifting when they share that they are happy in the Church and knowing that having faith and the Church became a huge help to them in facing their challenges in life," Contreras explained.
A Church that listens
She also appreciates the significance and objective of synodality in her life with the Church.
"Synodality teaches the importance of journeying with one another with the Church. The objective of this consultation is for the church to be able to listen to them (people) in order to discern the right things to do on how we will be able to journey together as one Church."
She also advises everyone to understand synodality because it is an essential guide to everyone’s lives.
"It is important to understand and apply synodality because it can serve as your guide as you journey with the church."
New vitality for mission and communion
The OLSHP continues to spread the Word of God by fulfilling their mission to strengthen the faith of the people in their communities. They have also taken to social media to inform the public and promote their work on synodality. And the results have encouraged the parish to surge on and continue the journeying together.