04/16/2023, 13.49
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Synodality, the Indian experience of Small Christian Communities

by Nirmala Carvalho

While in Rome a group of experts prepares the Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod from the continental syntheses, in India the parish of Uttan held the gathering of its network of communities, an experience that dates back to the 1980s in the archdiocese of Mumbai. Fr. Godfrey Malu: "Listening to everyone is our style."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - These days a group of experts from the five continents and who have taken part in various capacities in the synod process, are meeting at the Vatican to begin the work of discernment on the documents with the syntheses of the continental phase, in view of the elaboration of the 'Instrumentum Laboris that will guide the work of the Synodal Assembly scheduled to take place in Rome in October.

One of the features that is emerging most strongly in the reflection is the idea that the Synod is not only a great Church event desired by Pope Francis, but a style in the relationships that every Catholic community in the world, even the smallest, is called to live.

The idea is certainly not entirely new: walking together, making each one a protagonist, has always been a commitment for the Church at every latitude. There are, however, realities that have chosen to embody this style in a particular way.

This is the case, for example, with the network of Small Christian Communities in India, small communities of families who live their faith together in a small portion of territory, thus animating the life of the entire parish.

In the Archdiocese of Mumbai they are the fruit of the local synod held since the early 1980s, and since 1984 they have been actively promoted through a system that - taking the model to the Grassroots Communities - aims to help live out charity, mission and community discernment from below.

On April 11, in the climate of Easter, the Small Christian Communities of Our Lady of the Sea parish in Uttan - a locality north of Mumbai - experienced their gathering with Auxiliary Bishop Msgr. Barthol Barretto, who is in charge of this path at the diocesan level.

As many as 1,600 parishioners gathered for the day: each area, with its own community, entered the premises with a banner that a slogan. What made this gathering beautiful was not just the presence of so many people together with priests, nuns and religious, but the active participation of each community who put on performances, dances, talk shows, songs to bring their message.

For his part, Bishop Barretto, addressing those present, emphasized the missionary intent of Smal Christian Communities: just as the first apostles reached many people by spreading the good news of our Lord, in the same way each of us is called to serve with the same zeal and enthusiasm to spread the word of God and reach as many people as possible.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr. Godfrey Malu of Uttan Parish commented on this experience this way, "Synodality is the true spirit of our Small Christian Communities.

For the listening phase of the Synod, they addressed everyone by ensuring that each one had a voice in the listening process.

From January to March 2023 each enlarged the space of their tent, ensuring that all our 18,000 parishioners were included in the journey."

The April 11 meeting for each zone was also an opportunity to present the report on the activities carried out in the first three months of the year.

Putting them together, the specific contribution from each one's stories and talents and the common path becomes clear. In some areas, for example, a field day was held followed by an award.

Another zone dealt with visiting bereaved families, reducing expenses for weddings and using the amount for good causes. Another area helped coordinate and organize a sister's golden jubilee. Another zone dealt with the problem of marching bands disturbing others late at night by trying to find a way to solve the problems.

Finally, all zones met to choose apostles for the celebration of the Washing of Feet on Holy Thursday and to discuss the selection and election of new members of the parish pastoral council.


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