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Open the Doors and then What?

Connection, Participation and Synodality

Here's the deal. A healthy Church, living out the Wisdom of Vatican II, requires all the baptized to be co-responsible for the vitality of the Church and for the Church's engagement with the entire human family. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church defines participation as "a duty to be fulfilled consciously by all, with responsibility and with a view to the common good."

The Vademecum (the guidebook for the Synod on Synodality) says authentic participation "creates space for us to hear the Holy Spirit together, and guides our aspirations for the Church of the Third Millennium."

In other words, synodality requires participation. And participation is made possible if we open our hearts, open our doors and have ways to connect. (For those of you who'd like to hear more about the theological underpinnings of participation, which exceed the scope of this blog, Rafael Luciani speaks about a co-responsible Church here. )

In the meantime, I've been blogging around this very important idea of hearing from ALL the baptized by making it easy to connect. Without participation, there's no synodality. And without connection, there is no possibility of participation.

I began this first part of the series on Foundations for Synodality with the assumption that participation is a struggle in most parishes and dioceses. Even before Covid19 sent us to our respective caves, engagement with the local parish/diocese was dropping off. But enter Covid and all of its pivots, challenges and gaps and here we are in mid-2023, being called to an unprecedented embrace of all the baptized in Enlarge the Space of Your Tent. And at the same time, we are struggling to foster connection (America reported on the results of a recent survey indicating significant decline in attendance). And for those who are coming, fostering engagement with and participation in the life of the community continues to be a challenge. And, and this is a big AND, we are being challenged to have a preferential option for the young (#35 in Enlarge the Space of Your Tent) , and to energize our welcome to those who have been sent into exile by a Church that has not respected their relationships and hardships.

As I write this, the Continental Phase of the Synod on Synodality has come to an end. The reports have been completed and on May 12, 2023, the Vatican Media Office announced that the writing team has completed a draft of the Instrumentum laboris (the working document) for the October, 2023 synod gathering in Rome. That draft has been approved and we can expect to be able to read this document in June, 2023. So while we wait and pray, what else should we be up to? What should we be attending to? And how? My perspective: increasing participation because there is no synodality if there's no one participating. And there's inauthentic/incomplete synodality if we are not listening to the voices of the baptized who have left the tent or who are not welcome within it. My perspective again? Every individual, parish or diocese can undertake measures to make it more and more possible for all the baptized to participate. So let's get going...NOW! Here's how...

The seven blogs in the "Participation" pillar of synodality on our website address various aspects of participation from an intellectual, spiritual and practical point of view. Accompanying them are practical resources: 31 ways to connect, 7 ways to make it easier to join, 5 ways to shepherd your people and 10 characteristics of a synodal parish/diocese. Each blog has been updated a bit, so even if you read them "before", I invite you to take a look again. Begin here..."I'm So Damned Lonely."

Embrace the challenge to increase participation as also participating in becoming a more synodal Church. It's one way to get started now, even if you are unsure of where the emphasis on synodality eventually leads or why you should embrace Pope Francis' mandate. Increasing participation with concrete action will be good for your small community/parish or diocese whether you go further along the #synodjourney or not! So let's go!

If you are looking for someone to help you devise a plan, or to think through ideas or just to pray with you as you begin, members of the Pentecost Vigil Project Leadership Team can help. One hour of consultation is free! Check out our consultants. Send us an email at! You do not walk alone. We're right here with you on the #synodjourney.

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