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Synod Summary

From Joe Harrison (revised 17 December 2021)

On October 10th Pope Francis opened a two-year process of synodality. The aim is to consult with the whole Church including laity, religious and ordained in how it can become more inclusive of all sections and open in its governance. This is the first time that such a wide-ranging gathering of views from the whole Church has ever been undertaken.

This is to be a spiritual process grounded in prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance. It is not a forum for complaints or a way in which to air narrow personal opinions.

In order to be genuine and credible it is imperative to take soundings from every section of the Church Body. This is to be completed in the two-year period from November 2021 -November 2023.

The initial phase is confined to each individual Diocese. In our case final results will be reported to Bishops Conference of England and Wales. This is targeted to be completed by April 2022. In order to fulfil this requirement Plymouth Diocese wishes to consult at Parish level in Advent with late January as the very latest reporting date.

What are we asked to reflect on?

There are ten primary themes which underpin the different aspects of an active and lived synodality. (Journeying together as members of the Church)

1.Journeying Companions

2. Listening

3. Speaking out

4. Celebrating

5.Coresponsibility in Mission

6. Dialogue in Church and Society

7. Dialogue with other Christians

8. Authority and Participation

9. Discernment

10. Forming genuine synodality.

Our Diocese of Plymouth have suggested we focus on four generic areas that encompass many of the ten facets listed. They are:

Listen, Mission, Celebrate and Dream.

In each of these areas they have identified key questions as guidance to our discussions.


How do I listen to God? How do I listen to others?

How does our Parish listen to others? How does our Parish listen to God?

How do we as a Church listen to others? How do we as a Church listen to others outside of the Church?


What is my personal mission?

What is the mission of my Parish community?

What is the mission of the whole Church?


How do I celebrate the presence of God in His Word and in the Sacrements?

How does my Parish celebrate the Word and the Sacrements?

How does the wider Church celebrate journeying together?


What is God’s dream for me?

What is God’s dream for our Parish?

What is God’s dream for the wider Church/ whole world?

This is not a checklist of questions to be answered but prompts for our discernment and prayerful consideration.


In order to enable the Diocese to report the feedback from all the Parishes in April 2022 to the Bishop’s conference we need to complete our soundings during Advent and early January.

The remaining plan is to hold future meetings as follows:

Axminster at 9.45am after Mass on 19th December.

Lyme at 11.45 am after Mass on 19th December.

All gatherings to be held in Church within Covid guidelines.

Supplementary to this we are offering one last Zoom meeting in December.   This will be on Tuesday 21st December at 2.30 pm.  There is an open invitation to these gatherings to all parishioners from the three churches. Please contact Joe Harrison on 07566 225665 for the Zoom link or refer to the most recent newsletter. The future dates/times/ frequency of these gatherings will be adjusted according to demand and will be listed in the weekly newsletter and on the Parish website.

It is hoped to engage with as many of the faithful as possible in the process. Members can join one or more gatherings in any of the formats to suit needs.

It is possible to arrange documentary individual contributions by post for those who prefer this method. The significant information from all formats will be recorded totally anonymously by the attending Facilitator at gatherings.

At its heart this is a prayerful process where we respectfully listen to the Holy Spirit as he speaks through our fellow travellers.

We look forward to engaging with you on this exciting journey.

Please pray for the success of the Synod in our Parish.

God bless.

The Parish Synod Facilitators:

Peter Porteous, Jane Godfrey, Monica Watts-Hunt and Joe Harrison.

Paperwork in support of synodial consultation process:

Listening    Themes for Reflection 

Mission     Themes for Reflection

Celebrating     Themes for Reflection

Dream     Themes for Reflection

Feedback sheets:





Address by The Holy Father Pope Francis on the opening of the Synod 9 October 2021

Austen Ivereigh gives a useful account here

Address by Pope Francis

Dear brothers and sisters,

Thank you for being here for the opening of the Synod.  You have come by many different roads and from different Churches, each bearing your own questions and hopes.  I am certain the Spirit will guide us and give us the grace to move forward together, to listen to one another and to embark on a discernment of the times in which we are living, in solidarity with the struggles and aspirations of all humanity.  I want to say again that the Synod is not a parliament or an opinion poll; the Synod is an ecclesial event and its protagonist is the Holy Spirit.  If the Spirit is not present, there will be no Synod.

May we experience this Synod in the spirit of Jesus’ fervent prayer to the Father on behalf of his disciples: “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).  This is what we are called to: unity, communion, the fraternity born of the realization that all of us are embraced by the one love of God.  All of us, without distinction, and in particular those of us who are bishops.  As Saint Cyprian wrote: “We must maintain and firmly uphold this unity, above all ourselves, the bishops who preside in the Church, in order to demonstrate that the episcopate is itself one and undivided” (De Ecclesiae Catholicae Unitate, 5).  In the one People of God, therefore, let us journey together, in order to experience a Church that receives and lives this gift of unity, and is open to the voice of the Spirit.

The Synod has three key words: communion, participation and mission.  Communion and mission are theological terms describing the mystery of the Church, which we do well to keep in mind. The Second Vatican Council clearly taught that communion expresses the very nature of the Church, while pointing out that the Church has received “the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, and is, on earth, the seed and beginning of that kingdom” (Lumen Gentium, 5).  With those two words, the Church contemplates and imitates the life of the Blessed Trinity, a mystery of communion ad intra and the source of mission ad extra.  In the wake of the doctrinal, theological and pastoral reflections that were part of the reception of Vatican II, Saint Paul VI sought to distil in those two words – communion and mission – “the main lines enunciated by the Council”.  Commemorating the opening of the Council, he stated that its main lines were in fact “communion, that is, cohesion and interior fullness, in grace, truth and collaboration… and mission, that is, apostolic commitment to the world of today” (Angelus of 11 October 1970), which is not the same as proselytism.

In 1985, at the conclusion of the Synod marking the twentieth anniversary of the close of the Council, Saint John Paul II also reiterated that the Church’s nature is koinonia, which gives rise to her mission of serving as a sign of the human family’s intimate union with God.  He went on to say: “It is most useful that the Church celebrate ordinary, and on occasion, also extraordinary synods”.  These, if they are to be fruitful, must be well prepared: “it is necessary that the local Churches work at their preparation with the participation of all” (Address at the Conclusion of the II Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 7 December 1985).  And this brings us to our third word: participation.  The words “communion” and “mission” can risk remaining somewhat abstract, unless we cultivate an ecclesial praxis that expresses the concreteness of synodality at every step of our journey and activity, encouraging real involvement on the part of each and all.  I would say that celebrating a Synod is always a good and important thing, but it proves truly beneficial if it becomes a living expression of “being Church”, of a way of acting marked by true participation.

This is not a matter of form, but of faith.  Participation is a requirement of the faith received in baptism.  As the Apostle Paul says, “in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13).  In the Church, everything starts with baptism.  Baptism, the source of our life, gives rise to the equal dignity of the children of God, albeit in the diversity of ministries and charisms.  Consequently, all the baptized are called to take part in the Church’s life and mission.  Without real participation by the People of God, talk about communion risks remaining a devout wish.  In this regard, we have taken some steps forward, but a certain difficulty remains and we must acknowledge the frustration and impatience felt by many pastoral workers, members of diocesan and parish consultative bodies and women, who frequently remain on the fringes.  Enabling everyone to participate is an essential ecclesial duty!  All the baptized, for baptism is our identity card.

The Synod, while offering a great opportunity for a pastoral conversion in terms of mission and ecumenism, is not exempt from certain risks. I will mention three of these.  The first is formalism. The Synod could be reduced to an extraordinary event, but only externally; that would be like admiring the magnificent facade of a church without ever actually stepping inside.  The Synod, on the other hand, is a process of authentic spiritual discernment that we undertake, not to project a good image of ourselves, but to cooperate more effectively with the work of God in history.  If we want to speak of a synodal Church, we cannot remain satisfied with appearances alone; we need content, means and structures that can facilitate dialogue and interaction within the People of God, especially between priests and laity.  Why do I insist on this?  Because sometimes there can be a certain elitism in the presbyteral order that detaches it from the laity; the priest ultimately becomes more a “landlord” than a pastor of a whole community as it moves forward.  This will require changing certain overly vertical, distorted and partial visions of the Church, the priestly ministry, the role of the laity, ecclesial responsibilities, roles of governance and so forth.

A second risk is intellectualism.  Reality turns into abstraction and we, with our reflections, end up going in the opposite direction.  This would turn the Synod into a kind of study group, offering learned but abstract approaches to the problems of the Church and the evils in our world.  The usual people saying the usual things, without great depth or spiritual insight, and ending up along familiar and unfruitful ideological and partisan divides, far removed from the reality of the holy People of God and the concrete life of communities around the world.

Finally, the temptation of complacency, the attitude that says: “We have always done it this way” (Evangelii Gaudium, 33) and it is better not to change.  That expression – “We have always done it that way” – is poison for the life of the Church.  Those who think this way, perhaps without even realizing it, make the mistake of not taking seriously the times in which we are living.  The danger, in the end, is to apply old solutions to new problems.  A patch of rough cloth that ends up creating a worse tear (cf. Mt 9:16).  It is important that the synodal process be exactly this: a process of becoming, a process that involves the local Churches, in different phases and from the bottom up, in an exciting and engaging effort that can forge a style of communion and participation directed to mission.                     

And so, brothers and sisters, let us experience this moment of encounter, listening and reflection as a season of grace that, in the joy of the Gospel, allows us to recognize at least three opportunities.  First, that of moving not occasionally but structurally towards a synodal Church, an open square where all can feel at home and participate.  The Synod then offers us the opportunity to become a listening Church, to break out of our routine and pause from our pastoral concerns in order to stop and listen.  To listen to the Spirit in adoration and prayer.  Today how much we miss the prayer of adoration; so many people have lost not only the habit but also the very notion of what it means to worship God!  To listen to our brothers and sisters speak of their hopes and of the crises of faith present in different parts of the world, of the need for a renewed pastoral life and of the signals we are receiving from those on the ground.  Finally, it offers us the opportunity to become a Church of closeness.  Let us keep going back to God’s own “style”, which is closeness, compassion and tender love.  God has always operated that way.  If we do not become this Church of closeness with attitudes of compassion and tender love, we will not be the Lord’s Church.  Not only with words, but by a presence that can weave greater bonds of friendship with society and the world.  A Church that does not stand aloof from life, but immerses herself in today’s problems and needs, bandaging wounds and healing broken hearts with the balm of God.  Let us not forget God’s style, which must help us: closeness, compassion and tender love.

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Synod be a true season of the Spirit!  For we need the Spirit, the ever new breath of God, who sets us free from every form of self-absorption, revives what is moribund, loosens shackles and spreads joy.  The Holy Spirit guides us where God wants us to be, not to where our own ideas and personal tastes would lead us.  Father Congar, of blessed memory, once said: “There is no need to create another Church, but to create a different Church” (True and False Reform in the Church).  That is the challenge.  For a “different Church”, a Church open to the newness that God wants to suggest, let us with greater fervour and frequency invoke the Holy Spirit and humbly listen to him, journeying together as he, the source of communion and mission, desires: with docility and courage.

Come, Holy Spirit!  You inspire new tongues and place words of life on our lips: keep us from becoming a “museum Church”, beautiful but mute, with much past and little future.  Come among us, so that in this synodal experience we will not lose our enthusiasm, dilute the power of prophecy, or descend into useless and unproductive discussions.  Come, Spirit of love, open our hearts to hear your voice!  Come, Holy Spirit of holiness, renew the holy and faithful People of God!  Come, Creator Spirit, renew the face of the earth!  Amen.

LR Restoration Mass of Thanksgiving

Homily delivered 26 September by Father Cockram

Why are we here today?

You may well say: “To give thanks to God for this beautifully restored place of worship”

And, of course, you’re right.

But perhaps today is a good time to look at this with a bit more focus.

Just how are we giving thanks to God? And apart from the completion of the restoration work, why do we need to do that?

Most especially, why are we doing it within a form of worship which we call “The Mass”?

What’s that all about? Why don’t we just sing a couple of hymns, listen to a bit of Holy Scripture, say a few prayers and then enjoy a bite to eat together as we congratulate each other?

Well, the answer lies in the words of Jesus which we’ve just heard.

When he said: “The Son of Man is going to be handed over to the power of men,”

he was talking about his death, about his execution.

If we want to know what God is like, the best thing we can do is to look at Jesus from Nazareth. We say that Jesus is the incarnation of God, which means that he is God in human terms.

Jesus was gentle, patient, kind, compassionate, accepting and forgiving. Jesus was love in a human body, and this is the nature of the God whom we worship.

The God of whom St John says:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that all who believed in him should not perish, but might have everlasting life.”

Jesus is the love of God, and he died because he couldn’t stop proclaiming God’s love.

The message of the Cross is God saying:

“ You can despise me, reject me, ridicule me and beat me. You can even nail me to a cross to die, and I’ll still go on loving you.”

We are loved, all of us, whoever we are, whatever our religious tradition is, whether we believe in God or not. We are loved because we are all part of God’s creation. We are all part of that fountain of  life which springs from the loving creative energy of Almighty God.

When we’re drawn into a realisation of this love; we’re enabled to see much more clearly that love and sacrifice always go together. Our own human experiences teaches us this in any event; but when we see the death of Jesus as the sacrifice which draws God’s creation back to him, then we begin to see that this sacrifice was the most significant event in history.

On the night before he died, Jesus had supper with his friends. He took some bread and broke it. “This” he said, “Is my body which will be broken for you.” He poured out some wine and said “This is my blood, which will be shed for you and for many”

“Do this to remember me”.

When you remember something, you put it back together, you make it present again.

At the Mass, the sacrifice of Jesus, the sacrifice of God is made present to us. An event which happened in history is made present in our time.

Our offerings, our lives are joined to the sacrifice of Jesus and are given to God.

And they are given back to us as the very life of Christ himself.

Our humanity becomes infused with the divine and we are enabled to live the life of Jesus, the life of God. The life which will pass right through death to continue to give thanks to God in the company of all those whom we continue to love and who have gone before us.

This is why we give thanks to God. And yes, we can do it in a cathedral or in a shed. We can do it with hundreds of others or with one or two. But our natural instinct is to worship God in the best way that we can, bringing to him the best gifts that we can afford.

And so, we do it today in this beautiful church, lovingly restored as a mark of our love for him who first loved us.

May God bless you all. Amen.

Corpus Christi

It’s almost impossible to imagine what it would mean to give our flesh for someone to eat. So try to imagine the effect which the words we’ve just heard would have had on a group of Jewish people. For them, as for us, cannibalism was a subject to be avoided.  For most of us even thinking about eating the flesh of another person makes us feel sick.

But, there’s more.    It was, and still is, against the Jewish Law to eat the flesh of an animal from which the blood hadn’t been properly drained. And yet, here’s Jesus giving his friends wine to drink which he says is his blood.

So then, how can we take these difficult words?  What do they mean for our relationship with Jesus?

Well, first of all perhaps we need to face up to the fact that even modern religious practice makes use of ancient imagery, and it’s a basic biological fact that everything that lives, receives its life from another life.  Many religious rituals testify to this, and it was common for pagan religions to hold sacred meals in which the community shared in the life of either their god or their enemy.  The logic being that by eating their god, the worshipper shared in the divine life, whilst eating the enemy eliminated his or her power.

Christianity borrows this concept in order to speak of the way in which believers take divine life into themselves.  The beginning of St. John’s gospel tells us that at the incarnation the “Word was made flesh”.  This is the same as saying that the flesh of Christ contains God’s life for us all.

It’s easy to understand that food and life go together.  Unless we eat physical food we die.  Physical food symbolised by bread, which will of course eventually rot and decay, sustains our physical life, which as we know, ends in death.  This is the bread which Moses gave to Israel in the desert.  Living bread for the Christian community, which is the new Israel, sustains a lasting life that triumphs over death.  If we want lasting life we must eat this bread of life.

God the Father gives Jesus, the bread from heaven.  The work of Jesus is to give lasting life to believers.  This is what God has commissioned him to do.  Our work is to believe in Jesus, because only then can we benefit from the joint work of Father and Son.  Eating and drinking can be understood as taking the very life of Jesus into the centre and core of our hearts.  We need to saturate our hearts and our minds and our souls with Jesus, the very life of God.  We need to be so filled with him that his very essence becomes a part of us. 

Jesus told his disciples to believe in what God was doing for them through him. Belief was to be work for them.  Belief is work for us too.  All the work that we are required to do is to have a certainty in our mind and heart about God and God’s Son.  And yet we continue to find this difficult.  Some Christians think that they aren’t doing enough, and some no doubt, think that they’re doing more than enough.  And both of these mistaken positions are based on works; the good and the bad things that we do.  But the centre of our Lord’s teaching is really quite different. 

Bread can’t be shared until it is broken.  Wine can’t be drunk until it’s poured out.  We take the bread and drink from the cup with the knowledge that it was shared with us out of love, as the ultimate sacrifice for humankind from God. 

The heavenly food is made available through the breaking and bleeding and death of Jesus.  This sharing of himself is sacramentally embodied in the Eucharist, and Jesus explains that through the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood, we will be raised up with him on the last day.  It’s his promise to live through us as we receive him.

Jesus said: “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” Our tradition values the sacraments.  Jesus himself took bread and broke it; he poured out wine and offered these things to his followers with the words “This is my body” and “This is my blood”.  He told them and he tells us through them to keep on breaking, pouring, eating and drinking in order to remember him.  And when we go back to the words “do this in remembrance of me” in the language which they were first written, there is very good reason to believe that they mean “do this to make me present”.

Remember this when you come for communion in a few minutes time, for as you do you are completing all the work which Jesus requires.  Work which will draw you ever more deeply into the mystery of Christ and keep you in eternal life. The life of heaven which begins now, not after you’ve died.

In the Eucharist Jesus invites us through love, to the beginning of the fullness of life that only the Son of God can give. A beginning which will lead, through death to a life more glorious than anything we can imagine.  Can we pass up such a love as this?  Can we honestly turn away from the one who gave himself for us so completely?  


The Annual Ecumenical Initiative – Thy Kingdom Come

This novena of prayer runs from Ascension Thursday through to Pentecost Sunday.  Within this prayer, individuals are encouraged to pray for 5 nominated people they know that they would wish to bring closer to Jesus.  Complete details, along with a Novena prayer are detailed below for your newsletters, parish websites etc.

Thy Kingdom Come

Once again the annual International Ecumenical Initiative of Thy Kingdom Come is promoting a novena of prayer from Ascension Thursday through until Pentecost Sunday, introducing more people to Jesus.

This year it is encouraging us all to pray particularly for a minimum of five nominated friends or relatives, on a daily basis, that we wish to bring closer to Jesus.

Bishop Mark has taken the lead on this evangelisation initiative and this can be viewed on the short clip at:

Further information and resources are available at the Thy Kingdom Come website:

Novena Prayer

Lord Jesus,

We pray for the confidence to be missionary disciples, sharing your Good News of salvation with those we meet in our daily lives.  We bring before you in prayer those who have never known you, that the light of your truth may penetrate their minds and hearts, and those who have grown lukewarm in their faith that they may be reawakened to your graces.  We commend to you those in need of your mercy that they will know the joy of your forgiveness (name the five people you want to pray for).

We make our prayer through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Let Us Dream

Dear Friends

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Spirituality Committee has recently published a rather lovely piece of work inspired by Pope Francis’ book Let us dream. The path to a better future.

In Let us Dream, Pope Francis offers a deeply personal and passionate reflection on the Covid crisis in his own life and insightful observations on the present Covid crisis as he looks and sees what is going on around the world. His conclusion is that Covid, as well as bringing untold suffering, has brought blessing in the present and can shape our future for the better. But, he says, for this to happen, “We have to see clearly, choose well and act right” p7.

We would really like to offer a virtual Reading Group via Zoom to help us journey together from Easter to Pentecost, using the insights of Pope Francis to enable us to begin ‘to see, clearly, choose well, act right’ as we look to rebuild our lives post Covid, so warmly invite you all to attend this informal gathering facilitated by Sarah Barreto.

We hope staff may welcome the opportunity to reflect together during the transition back to a more normal way of living and therefore offer this weekly Reading Group on Wednesday afternoons 1-2pm, for 45 mins up to an hour over the next 4 weeks. The sessions are open to anyone working at St Boniface House or for the diocese, who might like to consider and discuss this simple, short but beautiful text together in a little more detail. 

The suggested format of each session is simple and you do not need any previous experience or theological knowledge at all – just an open heart and mind:

• Welcome and introductions ( if necessary).

• Opening Psalm

• Small group conversations around the reading and questions.

• Plenary – opportunity to share significant points that came up in groups and perhaps explore what threads are beginning to emerge from the conversations.

• Closing Psalm

There will be no pressure at all to talk so if you would rather just come and listen, that’s fine. Feel free to bring your lunch too.

Please see the attached flyer for further details.

Session1 – The Prologue 28 April

(Let us Dream, Please read Pages 1-7)

Session 2 – Part 1: A Time to See 5 May

(Let us Dream, Pages 11-47)

Session 3: Part Two: A Time to Choose 12 May

(Let us Dream, Pages 51-94)

Session 4: Part Three: A Time to Act 19 May

(Let us Dream, Pages 97-144)

If you are interested, please book via the Eventbrite link below: