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Recognizing Synodality in Ecumenism Part 5 in a series of 5

This is tthe last blog in this series on "What is synodality?" where we' are sharing what we are discovering about how to recognize synodality. We expect there will be more to understand and more signs of it in practice as we journey together, and as the 2nd Assembly of the Synod on Synodality brings forth its wisdom. And we expect some of you have insights you can share with us. Please do! Contact us here. We are co-learners along this #synodjourney.


It's Saturday afternoon and this is how the conversation goes,"Are you going to church in the morning?" "Yes, I am scheduled." "Are you taking one or both of the kids?" "Sure. They seem to like it and the folks there love seeing them." "Are you going to church tomorrow night?" "Yes. I'm cantoring." "Are you taking our son?" "I'll see if he wants to go when it's time." Week in and week out, two Christian parents trying to raise their children in the ways of faith, be involved in their faith communities, and not over-do the kids. It's an ecumenical marriage in practice. They are living out the truth of "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and in all" (Eph 4:5-6). What they are not doing is worshiping and serving together in the same Christian community. They struggle to pray together as a family, and there's even some tension around which Bible the children read. Faith-based holidays see them choosing what is easiest at the time, including occasionally, choosing nothing. Ecumenism, on the ground, in real life.


The Synthesis Document has an entire section entitled "On the Road Towards Christian Unity"(7). It makes the following statements: "Baptism, which is at the root of the principle of synodality, also constitutes the foundation of ecumenism. Through it all Christians participate in the sensus fidei and for this reason they should be listened to carefully, regardless of their tradition, as the Synod Assembly did in its discernment process. There can be no synodality without an ecumenical dimension." (7,b) Further down in this section, we read "Ecumenism is first and foremost a matter of spiritual renewal that also requires processes for repentance and healing of memory. ...Therefore it is important that ecumenism is practiced first and foremost in daily life.' (7,c) And another passage that shines a light on the relationship between synodality and ecumenism: "Marriages between Chrsitians who belong to different Churches or ecclesial communities [inter-church marriages] may constitute realities in which the wisdom of communion can mature, and it is possible to evangelize each other." (7,f)


There can be no synodality without an ecumenical dimension. So, what kinds of ecumenical actions might a synodal parish be doing? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Provide opportunities for ecumenical households to pray together, drawing from the rich Catholic prayer tradition that welcome all Christians to participate. (SR 3,m) Penitential services, Taize prayer, Tenebrae, Stations of the Cross, healing services...use your imagination and the rich Catholic spiritual tradition!

  • Form the people of the parish in the skills necessary for ecumenical dialogue (SR 14,e)

  • Engage entire households in works of charity and justice alongside those from other Christian denominations, and provide for mystagogy/reflection about them once they are done, so that all can come to understand how this work is an encounter with the Lord himself.

  • Invite ecumenical households to participate in learning how to listen well, and to practice Conversation in the Spirit in their homes as a way to strengthen the family.

  • Make sure that as part of the structured, regularly scheduled listening sessions that happen in a synodal parish, ecumenical families are specfically invited to participate.

  • Consider offering Liturgies of the Word to celebrate major religious holidays so that ecumenical households can worship together without the difficulty that arises when one partner is not welcome to communion.

  • Visit with and learn from other Christian churches to see how they are welcoming, inclusive and in service to their ecumenical households and invest in some of those same actions in Catholic parishes.

  • Create opportunities for couples living out ecumenical marriages to get to know one another, to engage in conversations about their strengths and struggles, and to surface what they are in need of as they live out their marriage vocation ecumenically.

  • Host ecumenical events like Vacation Bible School, parish social activities, and advocate for participation in these events at other Christian churches.


Some of these same activities will welcome inter-faith households more deeply into the community, where together we learn to walk with the Lord. Again, listen to them. Discover their deepest desires and struggles, and ask the Spirit how to guide your responses.


Remember, the purpose of this blog series is to begin to point out concrete signs of a parish that is becoming more and more synodal. It's about that axiom, "I can't tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it." We may have trouble succinctly defining synodality, but this series of blogs intends to help us "know it when we see it." I am anticipating we will get even more indicators of a synodal Church after the October, 2024 Assembly of the Synod on Synodality.


And, friends, if you already have synodal practices underway, highlight them to your people, and share them with us so we can help one another along the #synodjourney.

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