While the state’s attention was drawn to the outcome of Saturday’s crucial Upper Hunter by-election, Pope Francis cast his sight on the results of another significant poll in the region at the weekend.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle to reimagine the second session of its first synod in more than three decades.
Still, its parishioners geared up across six sites including Aberdeen, Booragul, Hamilton, Mayfield, Maitland and Taree to vote on matters concerning the church’s future.
More than 230 commissioned synod members, varying in age from 19 to 87, had their say on issues including women in leadership, homelessness, care for the environment, communication, cultural diversity, protection for the marginalised including refugees, interfaith dialogue and youth engagement.
It is the only Catholic synod process currently underway in Australia, amplifying the significance of results to the Vatican.
The diocese’s Bishop, Bill Wright, said many of the matters had been used as topical election platforms by politicians in recent weeks, but the church had been formally consulting on them for more than 18 months.
“Very frequently, synods are convened for a special purpose or particular issue,” he explained.
“However, our diocese’s synod is more akin to the Second Vatican Council, convened more generally to discuss a broad range of matters concerning the future of the church in a local context.”
Following its conclusion, the diocese adopted a “Statements of Intent” regarding desired outcomes emerging from parishioner feedback.
“We will then gather for the third session of the synod in November and translate our Statements of Intent into action, paving a way forward at a practical and concrete level,” Bishop Wright said.
“I have faith the Holy Spirit guides parishioners as they consider how the church can aid our community in ways political parties cannot.
“This synod is not an event, nor is it simply an assembly of people.
“It is a process by which we examine and reflect on the state of the church, drawing on our faith to find ways to fulfil our calling to be the body of Christ and to witness His gospel and His salvation in our community.”