How should Catholics demonstrate their faith as they engage with the wider community and the world? How do we want others to see us and our Church? How do we live as Christians in the 21st century?
In the view of Pope Francis, we must first listen to one another, to attempt to understand perspectives not just of the committed faithful in the Church but also those at the margins of faith or outside of it altogether.
That form of mutual listening, and mutual learning, is the model of synodality the pontiff envisions for the Church in the third millennium, and it’s at the core of the Synod of Bishops 2021-2023 called “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”
Some are calling it “the synod on synodality,” and it very much is that, inasmuch as synodality indicates a common journey, and the involvement and participation of all people of God in the life and mission of the Church.
Here in the archdiocese, planning at the administrative level has been going on since last fall, and has led to the stage we’re in now: the weekend Listening Sessions taking place in all 12 deaneries.
Some have already been held, others are scheduled on Saturdays and one Sunday before concluding Tuesday, April 5, with participants from parishes of the deanery where they are held.
The sessions open with a time of prayer and then move on to listen and share on the question: How are we living this “walking together” in the archdiocese and our parish and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow?
At the end of this stage, the archdiocesan synod team led by Elizabeth Guevara, director of adult faith formation, and Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, vicar general and moderator of the curia, will prepare a report summarizing the topics and themes raised during the sessions.
While it’s true that gatherings of this nature can easily devolve into gripe sessions, it’s our hope and expectation that those held in the archdiocese will produce results that are fruitful, steeped in prayer, and offer productive paths forward.
On Saturday, the feast of St. Joseph, two top Vatican officials—Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of the Bishops, and Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Clergy—released a letter to priests around the world acknowledging that the synodal process “is a novelty that can arouse enthusiasm as well as perplexity.”
But they reminded priests that synodality, “walking together,” is how the Church functioned in the first millennium.
“Synodality is truly God’s call for the Church of the third millennium,” they wrote. “Setting out in this direction will not be free of questions, fatigue and setbacks, but we can be confident that it will return to us a hundredfold in fraternity and in fruits of evangelical life.”
Our hope for the synod is that all people of God will see and experience a Church that is open, welcoming and prayerful, and truly reflective of the teachings of our Lord and the path He set for us to follow. That, indeed, is a worthy synodal goal.