By Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ
And so we begin! Pope Francis has formally convoked the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome with a Liturgy in Rome on Oct. 10. Bishop Lucia will mark that event and open the Syracuse Diocesan Synod with a Liturgy on Oct. 17.
In the official handbook for the Synod, we find the following:
“It is clear that the purpose of this Synod is not to produce more documents.
“Rather, it is intended to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts and restore strength to our hands for our common mission (#1.3).”
What a wonderful vision of Church! Together, we journey as Church to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit to continue the mission of Jesus in our world.
The theme of the Synod is stated in the words communion, participation and mission.
We desire to be “in communion” with God and with one another. At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed “that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn 17:21). The handbook for the Synod declares, “By his gracious will, God gathers us together as diverse peoples of one faith, through the covenant he offers his people. The communion we share finds its deepest roots in the love and unity of the Trinity” (#1.4).
Participation is defined as “a call for the involvement of all who belong to the People of God—laity, consecrated and ordained—to engage in the exercise of deep and respectful listening to one another. This listening creates space for us to hear the Holy Spirit together” (#1.4).
Regarding mission: “The Church exists to evangelize. … Our mission is to witness to the love of God in the midst of the whole human family” (#1.4).
The first step, then, in this journey toward synodality is to LISTEN. The Holy Father and the Bishops desire to listen to the People of God and invite us to listen to one another … for the Spirit moves where the Spirit wills, and each of us has received the Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation. Each of us has been gifted by our magnanimous God with gifts to be shared with the entire People of God.
This first stage of the Synod involves a series of Listening Sessions throughout the Diocese. These Listening Sessions are an opportunity to speak with courage and with freedom to Bishop Douglas J. Lucia as the shepherd of the Church of Syracuse and to one another. The Listening Sessions will be centered on two questions—one from Pope Francis and one from Bishop Lucia:
From Pope Francis: “How does this ‘journeying together,’ which takes
place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal one),
allow the Church to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the mission
entrusted to Her; and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take in
order to grow as a synodal Church?”
From Bishop Lucia, in his Pastoral Letter: “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 on our own experience of Church and could inspire us to dream of a Church responsive to the Spirit, and joyfully sharing the love of God in our world.
Over the next five months, Bishop Lucia will hold Listening Sessions in the various Pastoral Care Areas of the Diocese. All are invited! These sessions provide an opportunity to gather together, to reflect on our individual and communal experience of Church, to express our joys and our sorrows, our hopes and our dreams, our fears and concerns honestly.
I have recently written to the pastors of the diocese, asking them to consult with one another to choose a date and a site within their Pastoral Care Area to host a Listening Session. Once we have determined those dates and sites, they will be posted on the diocesan website and will be publicized in the Catholic Sun and in parish bulletins. I cannot emphasize enough that all are welcome!
Pope Francis has spoken of the meaning of the journey to which we are all called: “discovering the face and form of a synodal Church, in which ‘everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit … in order to know what He says to the Churches (Rev 2:7).’”
Together, let us renew our discipleship and enliven the Church we love!