If you follow Catholic news sources, you may have heard about the preparations that Pope Francis is asking all dioceses to make for the next Synod of Bishops in 2023. (A “Synod of Bishops” is a relatively new structure in the Church since the Second Vatican Council, designed to foster collegiality and collaboration between the Pope and the bishops.) The topic of the next synod will be “synodality” itself. I feel like I may have already lost many of you by using the word “synod” so many times in the first paragraph of this column, but the whole idea behind this gathering will be to discuss ways to make us more of a listening Church, allowing the Holy Spirit to work through all of us, not just the hierarchy. It’s a way of hearing the voices of all the local churches throughout the world to discern God’s will for His Church at this moment in history.
Bishop Rhoades recently preached on this at a special Mass celebrating the opening of the diocesan phase of this synod. I encourage you to read the full text of his homily at https://todayscatholic.org/journeying-together-as-the-pilgrim-people-of-god/, but I’ll include some highlights here. He described synodality as “a journeying together of all the faithful since all the baptized, both the hierarchy and the laity, are called to be active participants in the saving mission of the Church”. He said that “we are being asked by the Holy Father to be open to the Holy Spirit and thus discern how God is calling us towards deeper communion, fuller participation, and greater openness to fulfilling our mission in the world.” The Bishop cautions that we “must be careful not to think of the Synod as a political parliament. It is a spiritual process, not a political process. It is oriented toward discernment of the will of God by listening to one another, seeking to discern what God is saying to us today, following the lead of the Holy Spirit. It is about being open to God’s grace by praying, listening, and reflecting.”
The first phase of this process will take place in local dioceses, including our own. As Bishop Rhoades explained in his homily, “the diocesan phase of the Synod … will last until April. During these months, there will be gatherings in the six vicariates of our diocese and in parishes within the vicariates where people will be invited to meet and prayerfully share their reflections on this theme of synodality. The fundamental question to be discussed is this: A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together.’ How is this ‘journeying together happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?””
There are a couple of reasons why I’m bringing this up in my column this week. First of all, it’s something that the Holy Father has asked us all to be prayerfully invested in. Secondly, you will be hearing much about this in the coming weeks and months if you follow Catholic media sources, which I encourage you to do. Finally, all of you are invited to be a part of the “listening session” that will take place in our section of the diocese, which will be hosted by St. Pius on (tentatively) January 15, 2022. You’ll see this invitation printed in our bulletin in the time leading up to this session, but I encourage you to participate. The input given from all of the listening sessions in our diocese will be sent to the diocese and synthesized into one report that will be sent to the U.S. Bishops as part of the preparation of a working document for the 2023 Synod.
I encourage all of you to attend the listening session, and especially to pray for the Church in preparation for the 2023 Synod, that we may be open to follow wherever the Holy Spirit leads us.