Synodality – there is no other way says Wairarapa PP


There is no other way into the future other than Synodality.

The comment was made by Fr Dennis Nacorda, one of the New Zealand representatives at the Synod on Synodality held in Rome in October 2023.

Unable to attend the first Zoom feedback meeting about the Synod, Nacorda last Thursday joined Mr Manuel Beazley the Vicar for Māori, and Archbishop of Wellington Paul Martin for the second Zoom meeting.

Nacorda’s view

In 2024, Nacorda became the new parish priest of the geographically vast Wairarapa parish.

Wairarapa Mass-going parishioner numbers have been dwindling over recent years since five geographically disparate and identifiable communities were merged into two.

Nacorda described his impressions of the Synod and its process as an “eye-opener”. It shows “how the Church should work” he said.

It also gave him insights and ‘things’ to take to his parish. He is very supportive of the spiritual discernment process used by the Synod.

Nacorda said one of his Synod experiences that can be used in a local setting is how everyone’s comments were considered.

“Those [comments] that are on the left side of the spectrum and the right side of the spectrum, they are all put onto the table and are heard and listened to with respect and reverence … and that’s really good.”

He is also very supportive of the spiritual discernment process used by the Synod.

It’s about mission

Asked about how Synodality can bridge the gap between the parish and the global Church, Nacorda says that when looking at mission, it starts on the ground and mission starts in parishes.

As we encourage, inspire and enable parishes to care for the mission, it could reflect the whole global picture.

He said that if Synodality is encouraged at the parish level, it will influence the hierarchy.

Fielding a question from a young person who joined the meeting, Nacorda said that teens should have a place in the Church, that they are not there preparing for the future, that they are already part of the Church and have a role to play now.

It is not a matter of finding a way to bring young people in but of going to where they are, engaging with them where they are in the world, he said.

Nacorda described Synodality as a “new era dawning upon us”.

Calling it exciting, “I can’t wait for it to happen” he said.

What is Synodality?

Describing the overall experience as “really powerful” and “really, really helpful”, Archbishop Paul Martin said conversations in the Spirit can surprise.

Martin said for him, the diversity of the Church – the Church with so many nations and cultures – challenged his dominant, very Western thinking.

“Other parts of the world don’t think this way at all” he said.

He described the challenges of having these conversations as “enlightening” and in terms of listening “demanding”.

“But we did it” he said, highlighting the importance of conversations in the Spirit.

He warned that we are speaking of being a Synodal Church as though it is some form of democratic or majority process.

He clarified that synodality was not a majority rule nor a form of democratic process.

“If we ask twenty people ‘what does it mean to be synodal?’ I suspect we’ll get twenty different answers” observed Martin.

He said that Synodality will highlight new gifts within people and the need for us to all learn new skills.

No NZ women representatives!

The absence of women from New Zealand’s representatives was asked about and addressed on Tuesday. It featured again during Thursday’s meeting.

Meeting facilitator Lucienne Hensel commented that New Zealand was not part of the Oceania group and there were a number of women representatives from Oceania.

Clarifying the issue of “representation”, Manuel Beazley said that while Martin represented the New Zealand bishops, neither he nor Nacorda represented Aotearoa.

Beazley called it a “subtle distinction” saying “We just happen to be members who’ve chosen to be at the assembly who come from Aotearoa”.


When asked if they thought the Synod addressed the concerns of those who felt excluded, e.g. LGBTQ communities, Paul Martin said the group he was in tried to talk about LGBTQ communities.

He pointed out that in his group was Fr James Martin SJ.

James Martin is the editor at large of Outreach. He has also served the marginalised ever since joining the Society of Jesus.

He has worked with street gangs, the sick and dying, refugees in East Africa, prison inmates, people experiencing homelessness – and is now reaching out to the LGBTQ community.

He was also personally invited to the Synod by Pope Francis.

Paul Martin said that while his Synod group was sympathetic to the LGBTQ community, there were other parts of the world that definitely were not.

He said discussion of LGBTQ outreach was one of the Synod “flashpoints” where very different opinions from around the World became visible.

He noted a number of people were disappointed the final document was watered down from the earlier draft.

Watering it down was a way of keeping the conversation going, as there was a feeling that if it kept the original, it would be voted out, he said.

Beazley commented that the Synod talked a lot about various groups, for example LGBTQ, youth, women and indigenous.

“There was a lot of talking about and rather not enough talking with” he observed.

He was very happy that his intervention on indigenous people appeared almost word-for-word in the final document.

On the lighter side

While delegates were encouraged to use first names, Paul Martin clarified that bishops were required to wear formal attire only at the first and last sessions; otherwise there was no dress code.

But, as Beazley observed, Italians love wearing uniforms and everyone in Rome has a uniform.

Nacorda interpreted that the lack of a dress code meant he could wear his normal clothes and travelled to Rome without sufficient clerical shirts.

Their lack provided a learning experience. Not having visited Rome before, Nacorda says he learned firsthand “When in Rome, do what the Romans do.”

He told those at the Zoom meeting that he was looking forward to his return visit to Rome for the second session of the Synod.

“Next time, I’ll be ready, I’ll be prepared” he said.


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