Reflection: What does Synodality mean for Mercy Ministry Companions?

What is Synodality?

In preparation for the 2023-2024 Synod in Rome, Pope Francis invited the Church to rediscover its synodal nature. What does synodal mean for the Church and more specifically for Mercy Ministry Companions?

Three dimensions characterise a synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission – we are calledtowards deeper communion, fuller participation, and greater openness to fulfilling our mission in the world”.[1] These characteristics are profoundly interrelated, and each enriches and orients the other two – as we journey together in a synodal Church:

  • we all have a role to play in discerning and living out the call to God’s people – Communion
  • we are all ‘qualified’ and called together to contribute – Participation
  • there is a deep missionary dimension, to witness better to the Gospel, especially walking with those on the peripheries – Mission.[2]

A synodal Church needs to develop synodal processes, which are intentional, invitational and empowering. These encompass:

  • Discernment, through listening and dialogue
  • Inclusion, enabling and ensuring participation, especially of the marginalised
  • Partnership, based on the model of a co-responsible Church
  • Cultural awareness,embracing the diversity within the community.

As Pope Francis has told us: “There is no need to create another Church, but to create a different Church” – synodality is the means to create a different Church.[3]


A Synodal Journey: The Establishment of MMC

Mercy Ministry Companions (MMC) was established in 2021 at the instigation of Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG). However, its ‘journey’ commenced four years earlier at ISMAPNG’s 2017 Chapter, which envisaged a new era to ensure the Institute’s ministries “could flourish into the future”. The extended timeline and relational but exacting processes leading to MMC’s establishment are indicative of what it means to proceed in a synodal way.

Firstly, the Institute Leadership Team (ILT) appointed the Future Governance Working Party (FGWP) in 2018 to explore potential new governance options for ISMAPNG’s incorporated ministries. The FGWP recommended the establishment of a new Church authority called a ministerial public juridic person (MPJP). The subsequent Institute PJP Transition Group advanced the recommendation and in early 2021 the Institute petitioned Rome for a new MPJP called Mercy Ministry Companions and approved by the Holy See in September 2021.

Throughout these processes, the Sisters, ministry directors and staff and other stakeholders were involved in providing input and guiding the MPJP’s development and accompanying the journey in prayer. With MMC’s establishment, ISMAPNG transferred stewardship of its incorporated ministries to the MMC Trustee Directors. An aspect of MMC’s synodal journey was two other religious institutes, the Christian Brothers and Sisters of St Joseph, entrusting a shared ministry, MacKillop Family Services, to MMC.

MMC is blessed in the name chosen by the Institute – companions, by definition, are ‘journeying together’. The name is a constant ‘cue’: Trustee Directors, those in MMC ministry governance and leadership roles, staff and volunteers across the ministries are all integral to MMC’s development and called to nurture the new Church authority. In journeying together, the whole is greater than the parts – each member of MMC is invited to ‘shape’ the mission going forward.

Thus, the MMC conferences in 2022 and 2023 were planned by cross-ministry working parties and brought together over 100 stakeholders from across the ministries. With a focus on being companions, they sought to deepen participants’ understanding of co-responsibility for MMC’s mission. One activity is illustrative – in 2022, participants were invited to contribute to developing MMC’s mission and vision statements and values. Shared values emerged definitively during the conference. Subsequently, the MMC Formation Committee extracted draft mission and vision statements from the conference input and invited the ministries to consider and refine the draft statements in an iterative process to arrive at the Identity Statements launched at the 2023 conference.[4]

In pondering these reflections, let us ask ourselves what being synodal means for each of us in MMC:

  • Does my ministry have a focus on co-responsibility for the mission?
  • In our approach to ministry, do we intentionally promote listening and dialogue?
  • Is our ministry fostering inclusion, particular of those on the margins?

Gabrielle McMullen AM

Trustee Director, Mercy Ministry Companions


[1]     Vademecum for the Synod on Synodality, Section 1.2; see Vademecum-EN-A4.pdf (

[2]     Ibid., Section 1.4.

[3]     Address of the Holy Father Francis on the occasion of the Moment of Reflection for the Beginning of the Synodal Journey (New Synod Hall, 9 October 2021) (

[4]     Vision, Mission and Values – Mercy Ministry Companions.

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