A report from the Synod listening sessions held across the archdiocese in the spring has been submitted to the Synod team of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.
“It’s a big relief,” said Elizabeth Guevara de Gonzalez, director of the archdiocesan Adult Faith Formation Office who is among the Synod’s local leadership.
The report was sent June 30. “It’s great to know that this part is done and so now, moving forward, it’s all about next steps in Synodality here in the archdiocese.”
Conversations will be conducted within the next couple of months among Cardinal Dolan, herself and various pastoral offices “to see how we can move forward with the next steps.”
“I’m grateful for the process,” she added.
Cardinal Dolan, along with diocesan bishops across the universal Church, opened the Archdiocese of New York’s diocesan phase of a synod Oct. 17, 2021, beginning a process of “preparation and prayer,” at the request of Pope Francis, in anticipation of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2023.
A week earlier, Pope Francis formally opened the process leading up to the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2023.
The diocesan phase has focused on listening to and consulting the people of God. The synod’s theme is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”
During Lent, more than 2,000 people representing the 12 deaneries of the archdiocese gathered in person with fellow parishioners to pray and provide input at the Synod listening sessions. Those who were not able to attend sessions in their deaneries were able to participate in the bilingual online listening session May 4 via Zoom. Various Catholic entities sent their feedback separately. People had the opportunity to complete the Synod questionnaire on the archdiocesan website.
Father Jose Felix Ortega, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Bronx, and dean of Bronx West, said, “The Synod gathering session was a very nice surprise to everyone in our deanery; the willingness of the people to participate and share their opinions about their personal experiences was outstanding.”
As a deanery, he said, they agreed to review and study further the findings in the document they submitted to the archdiocese after the spring listening sessions, likely this fall. “Our intention is to reflect on that document to understand better what the people are saying to us, as pastors.”
“One of the things that I personally learned is that it is not that difficult to listen to the people, in terms that the logistics were not that difficult to organize and the people were ready to share.”
Francisco Garcia-Quezada, 56, a member of St. Peter and St. Mary of the Assumption parish in Haverstraw, served as a facilitator in English and Spanish at two Synod listening sessions.
“It’s a very positive thing for the entire Church,” he said of the Synod. “The Pope has asked us to really have input into almost like a needs assessment but also an evaluation and a reflection of where the Church is at and where it’s heading.”
Garcia-Quezada is a resource specialist in teacher training at the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University. He also taught at public schools in Rockland County for 30 years.
Ongoing religious education, accessible and available to adults, was among the suggestions that arose in the sessions Garcia-Quezada attended, he said, as was making available more ministries, and training in those ministries. Consideration of and continued appreciation for women and their role in the Church was also discussed. The continued care of young people was another issue raised.
Garcia-Quezada said, “The fact that we were able to compile a report that is going to be delivered by our bishops on behalf of the Church in the United States, in the Northeast, specifically in New York, speaks volumes to the involvement in the parishes and also the desire to see the Church be more responsive to that involvement of the people.”
“To have that opportunity,” he concluded, “was a privilege and also a serious responsibility.”
Ms. de Gonzalez said the Synod process has underscored that “our people care about our Church.”
Parishioners shared a need to get to know other parishioners. “There were lots of people saying, ‘I don’t know the person in the next pew’ and ‘I serve with people within my parish and we do good work, but I don’t know who I’m serving with,’” Ms. de Gonzalez cited as examples.
“While I knew that was the sentiment, it was very enlightening to hear it very specifically in that way,” she said.
Reaching out to those who are divorced and helping to bring them back “into the fold of the parish life” was another discussion point.
Under the umbrella of faith formation, many expressed a concern that “there is a general lack of knowledge of the foundations of our faith” and advocated “for formation within the parish to be intergenerational, and to include a whole family—the parents with the children, together,” Ms. de Gonzalez said.
People across the archdiocese should know “they’re appreciated for taking the time to be part of this, taking the time to pray for this” Ms. de Gonzalez said of the Synod.
“Our Church is alive. We are here. There’s a lot of reason to hope.”