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  • Writer's picturepentecostvigilproj

Guess What? They Listened!

Have you ever participated in an organized group process where you were asked your opinion, but you doubted if what you said would make any difference? That was the experience of many of our parishioners who participated in the original Synod Listening Sessions eighteen months ago. (I was the leader of the parish Synod effort, but deep down inside I had the same feeling as the parishioners!)

But surprisingly, many of the issues raised by our parishioners ended up being some of the same issues that were raised by Catholics around the world. When I read the Instrumentum Laboris or working document for the October Synod in Rome last month, I was amazed to find that many of the issues that our parishioners raised will be discussed in Rome by bishops, priests and lay delegates. The Church leaders in Rome LISTENED TO US!!

It all began eighteen months ago, in the winter/spring of 2022, when many (200+) parishioners participated in what was called “Synod Listening Sessions.” Pope Francis had asked every parish around the world to participate in the preliminary sessions. He wanted to know what it was like to be a Catholic in the world today. Our parishioners responded to our main question, “What warms your heart about your parish (and the Catholic Church)?” and “What breaks your heart about your parish (and the Catholic Church)?”

Notetakers recorded the responses of parishioners at the meetings and a report was developed and given to our pastor, the Pastoral Council, and posted on the parish website for all to see. Our Report was sent to the diocesan offices, which summarized all the parish reports, and a diocesan report was sent to the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). The USCCB developed a national report which was combined with the report from Canada into the North American Continental Report. That report was sent to the Vatican to be included in an international report to prepare for the Worldwide Synod to be held Oct. 4-29, 2023 in Rome.

Some of the issues raised by our parishioners that are included in the continental report and so will be discussed at the Synod include: dwindling numbers of parishioners, especially young adults; need for women in leadership roles; welcome to divorced and separated and LGBTQ+ persons; need for adult faith formation opportunities; and increased ecumenical activity.

Like I said above, I was skeptical that our report would be heard at the diocesan level and that it would be watered down the “further up the institutional ladder” it went. But we spoke, and THE CHURCH LISTENED!! I find this very heartening and hopeful. One of the reasons I stay Catholic is I want to belong to a Body of Christ that is universal (though not uniform) and the practice of synodality allows me to experience that, evidenced in the many questions before the Synod on Synodality.

And it’s not just that Catholics on the other side of the world agree with me, as enriching as that it. It’s also that synodality invites me to learn from listening to their issues, issues that I haven’t experienced.

Now, hopeful and curious, it’s safe to say I can’t wait to hear how the discussions will go at the Synod!

Image Unsplash/John Tyson

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