Editor’s note: Sister Katie Eiffe is the Vicar for Religious and Diocesan Director of Synod Planning.

By Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ 

If you have been reading the Sun for the last few weeks, you know that we have embarked on a synodal process! The Holy Father has called for a Synod of the World’s Bishops, on the topic of synodality, and has invited all the people of God to participate in the preparation, and he has asked all bishops to convoke a synod in their own dioceses. Bishop Douglas J. Lucia (a man ahead of his time!) had already indicated in his Pastoral Letter, In the Name of Jesus, that he in fact intended to do just that—convoke a Diocesan Synod.

As you may remember, the term “synod” means “a journeying together.”

Pope Francis has stated that this is what the Holy Spirit is asking of the Church now, still early in the third millennium of Christianity. In an address at the Ceremony Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops in 2018, he said:

“It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church in the third millennium.”

“The meaning of the journey to which we are all called is above all that of discovering the face and form of a synodal Church, in which ‘everyone has something to learn.’ The faithful people, the college of bishops, Bishop of Rome, all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of Truth,” in order to know what He ‘says to the Churches.’”

Notice the importance of LISTENING as essential to the synodal process. The Office of Synodal Planning, in consultation with Bishop Lucia, has begun to schedule Listening Sessions throughout the diocese in the various Pastoral Care Areas. You will find a list of those sessions that have been scheduled at the end of this article.

But I wanted to offer more specific information about these Listening Sessions (as well as to acknowledge that more will be scheduled).

A Listening Session is a gathering of the People of God in the Church of Syracuse, in which you will be asked to reflect upon your experience of “Church” in your local parish and in the diocese. All are welcome and all are encouraged to attend.

The Listening Sessions will consist of prayer followed by an opportunity for you to share that experience of Church, and to offer responses to two basic questions:

1. Our Holy Father has written: “A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together.’ How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your particular Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in

order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’”

2. Bishop Lucia, in his Pastoral Letter, asks us: “Though we are many parts, how can we better reflect the presence of the Risen Christ as Church—as His Body—in the 21st Century?”

Those questions invite us to reflect upon our own experience of Church, and to speak of our joys, our hopes and dreams, and our concerns regarding the Church.

Thus, the third question is just that: “What are your hopes and dreams, and what are your concerns?

We are invited to speak honestly and freely, with courage and boldness, of our dream for the Church.

Bishop Lucia will be present at every Listening Session. His role is just that, to listen to your hopes and dreams, and concerns. It is not an opportunity for you to ask specific questions nor for him to respond “in the moment” to what he hears. Rather, he will be listening intently, allowing your words to find a home in his heart.

When all the Listening Sessions (at least in this first round) are completed,

a committee will assist me in preparing a Diocesan Report, summarizing what we have heard from the People of God in the Church of Syracuse. That report will be forwarded to the United States Conference of Bishops to aid them in their preparation for the General Assembly of the World Synod of Bishops, to be held in Rome in October 2023. Of course, “what the Bishop hears” will also be essential to his preparation for the Syracuse Diocesan Synod in the spring of 2024.

So, how do you take part in this essential ecclesial process?

1. First, last and always, pray! Listen to the Word of God in Scripture.  Participate fully in your parish’s eucharistic celebration as often as possible.

2. Reflect on your experience of Church in your parish. What gives you joy? What, if anything, makes you sad? What, if anything, causes you concern?

How do you experience the presence of the Risen Christ in your parish?

In your Pastoral Care Area? In the diocese?

3. Attend one (or more, if you wish) Listening Session in your Pastoral Care Area, or in another PCA if that is at a more convenient time. Speak courageously, freely, boldly, honestly.

4. Listen to what others share. St. Benedict, in his Rule for his community, coined a beautiful phrase: “Listen with the ear of your heart.”

5. Strive to listen without judgment. Listen in order to understand what the other is saying, not in order to respond. This type of listening is not easy.  We are called to “let go of our own judgments” in order to truly hear and understand what the “other” is saying. It is intense! In such listening, the Holy Spirit may be heard!

6. Do not expect the Bishop to offer an “immediate response.” Remember,

he, too, is listening. Together, we are listening in order to hear the Holy Spirit.

I believe that this is the first time, since the Second Vatican Council reinstated the Synod of Bishops, that part of the preparation for a Synod of Bishops has intentionally included a consultation with the entire People of God. The Spirit of God is within you! The Spirit of God is with us! We are, each and every one of us, challenged to live out our discipleship in this way at this time.

Listed below are the Listening Sessions that have been scheduled to date.

Keep checking the Sun and the diocesan website for additional dates and information.

(Also see “Bishop presides at Opening Mass for the Synodal Process,” page 9)

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