Ensuring your voice is heard

Synod delegate Rosemary O’Connor tells Cathal Barry that thousands of people have been involved in the listening process to date

One of the most impressive figures to come out of the synod process in Limerick so far is that more than 5,000 people have had their voices heard. 

That’s according to key delegate Rosemary O’Connor who has been heavily involved in the listening process to date, facilitating group meetings and collating data which will ultimately shape the synod itself.

Rosemary, who is a member of the parish pastoral council in Milford and chair of the pastoral area team, a group of 8 parishes working together like a cluster, was keen to be involved in the synod process from the outset.

“I’ve always had an interest in the future of the Church and how it is developing,” she told The Irish Catholic. 

“I got the sense that there was something new happening and that the Church was looking to do something different, to take account of the new realities that we live in and wanted to be part of that. 

“The model of Church going forward has to be much bigger and broader than the current institutional model that a lot of people are used to,” she said.

Although her professional background is in economic development, Rosemary was ideally placed as a delegate given she had recently completed a Masters in Leadership and Pastoral Care in All Hallows College, Dublin.

“My interest is in pastoral planning. For me it’s applying a lot of my business skills in a pastoral context so that was my key motivation.”

Rosemary’s background in working with data led to her involvement in collating information collected during the listening process, through questionnaires which widely distributed throughout the diocese. 

“I have a research background in terms of trying to work with big data sets in particular and how to distil the information down into something meaningful and useful.”

To that end, Rosemary was involved in creating a “coding framework” which would actually be able to break all the information down.

Such as framework was essential considering in excess of 4,000 people responded to the questionnaire, while more than 1,000 took part in workshops and meetings which addressed the survey’s content.

“We wanted to give due credence to what people did put forward. Every questionnaire and every report has been read and coded and it’s been included in the analysis. That’s a big commitment that we wanted to make to the delegates and the 5,000 people who went to the trouble of taking part in this and giving their views,” she said.

The questionnaire itself was made up of three core questions, asking people what topics should be discuss at the synod, what encouraged them to participate in their local church and what they found difficult about participating.

In an effort to reach out to those who do not regularly attend Mass, delegates went door-to-door and even stopped people in shopping centres for feedback, encouraging them to participate and have their voice heard. 

“There was a huge effort to be fair. People really did enter into it with great energy and commitment,” Rosemary said.

Now the listening process has finished, a team of 14 people have been involved in coding and bringing the information together. Up to 12 themes will be distilled from such codes and put to delegates at the meeting on October 3. It will then be up to them to decide on the six key themes that the synod will deal with next year.

As for Rosemary, she hopes the synod will ultimately about a change in the Church in limerick.

“I have been amazed that so many people have responded. There is a sense that people are looking for something new. They are looking for a change and a freshness in the Church. The fact that there has been such willingness to listen and hear from the ground up is very positive,” she said.