He hears impassioned commentary as synodal process inspires speakers
By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
One participant said his job entails speaking, but they were all orators Nov. 3 at the opening Listening Session of the Diocesan Synod.
“I am so impressed by what I heard tonight,” Bishop Douglas J. Lucia said at Blessed Sacrament Church in Syracuse, where people were socially distanced from the front to the back. “For being the first group, you done good. You done VERY good. And it’s really my privilege as bishop to just sit here and to listen and to take it all in.”
Invited to speak freely and boldly, people formed lines at three microphones and talked about topics including respecting life; the length of seminary training for priests; the importance of the rosary and of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; the need for joy; the need to be quiet during Mass; and the need for pastors and priests to “look us in the eye and care about us.”
Every diocese in the world is participating in the process, said Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, the Vicar for Religious and Diocesan Director of Synodal Planning. Catholic News Service reports that Pope Francis is inviting Catholics to voice their dreams, ideas and concerns in preparation for the 2023 Synod of Bishops, which has the theme “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission.”
Pope Francis formally opened the universal synodal process Oct. 10. It is the 16th time since Vatican II that the Holy Father has called for a worldwide synod of bishops, “but it’s the first time there has been a specific effort to consult with the entire people of God. So you are the first in our diocese and we are grateful,” said Sister Katie.
“It’s a beautiful journey to be part of,” Bishop Lucia said.
The Diocese of Syracuse will hold listening sessions in its 26 Pastoral Care Areas (PCAs) and then submit a report to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2022. Then the report will be forwarded to the Holy See—the synod office in Rome.
“But it’s also going to be the beginning of our own work at preparing our Diocesan Synod” in 2024, Bishop Lucia said. He added: “We will do our work and we will continue on that work, but we’ll be guided by what’s going on in Rome with the work of that synod.” Ultimately, the bishop has said, the diocese “will take the labor of the worldwide synod and apply it to the everyday life of our parish communities.”
Bishop Lucia’s role at the Blessed Sacrament session was to listen and take notes on key points. “Do not look for answers tonight,” Sister Katie told the assemblage. “We are one Pastoral Care Area in one diocese in one country among the entire world, OK?”
Sister Katie told those who were poised to speak: “Be as brief as you can. … You may have the insights that will change the Church.” Still, she had to remind some speakers to wrap it up.
After the Prayer for the Synod came 10 minutes of silent reflection; then about two dozen people headed to the microphones. So many speakers came from Holy Cross Church (DeWitt) that one speaker drew laughs by saying “I’m not from Holy Cross.”
Here is a sampling of their comments:
• “I love Holy Cross Parish. It’s full of the Holy Spirit and God’s place. Thank God for leading me there. … May all mankind thank God the Father for the gift of life.”
• Every church should have to pray every Sunday for the precious lives that are scheduled to be taken by abortion. “It’s a spiritual battle. … We need the prayer of the Church.” More catechesis on the vocation of marriage is needed; some people do not understand natural law.
• There should have been a bigger turnout. The speaker referred to Micah 6:8:
“You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.”
• More regular PCA meetings are needed. (The PCA of this first listening session consists of the parishes of St. Matthew, East Syracuse; St. Mary of the Assumption, Minoa; St. Francis of Assisi, Bridgeport; the Faith Communities of Blessed Sacrament and St. Vincent de Paul, Syracuse; Holy Cross, DeWitt; and St. Mary’s Mission, Jamesville.)
• Margaret Ingraham of Holy Cross brought a big yellow smiley-face sign that she created. “I think that it would be good to have a little more joy,” she said, and she wants people to learn more about the Catholic faith. She wants people to come and visit Jesus—“he’s lonely and he’ll help us when we come to visit him.”
• In seminaries, combining two years of theology study into one year could help get more priests trained in a timely way. Also, the sign of peace should come back at Mass, and the collection box should be at the rear of the church, as in ancient times, instead of plate-passing.
• More reverence for the Eucharist is needed, and a sense of mystery should be emphasized, as in the presence of the monstrance at Eucharistic Adoration.
• A “real love bond” exists in the three parishes that one speaker has belonged to. She wants the Church “reaching out more to people in other generations that have fallen away,” and she believes the chalice truly contains the blood of Christ.
• One speaker, who goes to church for perspective that will lead her through the week, said: “Ordain women.”
• Carl M. Oropallo, winner of the Le Moyne College Ignatian Award for Community Service in 2017, said the Church needs to reach out to new refugees that are coming, and he thanked St. Vincent de Paul Church in Syracuse for doing that for a long time now. He wants to see deacons doing more, since they have impressive backgrounds including leading the boards of big corporations.
• A convert who was a Methodist has “found a home in the Catholic Church …, the one true church.” He loves the Latin Mass, and his family says the rosary every night. Husbands and wives should pray together. After a big fire, his family received love, money and gift cards from people in his church.
• A Holy Cross parishioner is grateful for all the diocese does, especially the Faith Formation Office.
• The Church should speak prophetically.
• One Holy Cross parishioner prays every day that he will “encounter the risen Christ in everyone he meets.” He is concerned about environmental degradation and climate change.
• We need to evangelize more: “I think that’s our mission. … I can’t think of a more important one.” The speaker doesn’t understand why Catholics don’t carry a Bible to Mass.
• Sister Mary Joana Baidoo, IHMMC, wants to see more reverence in church because we need to remember “whose presence we are sharing.”
Those who didn’t get the chance to speak can send comments to
“Your listening was profound,” Sister Katie told the people after the comment period ended.
Bishop Lucia said bishops are supposed to take consultation very seriously. “I do that,” he said, “and I do want to thank YOU for taking it so seriously tonight.”
The evening concluded as the people bowed their heads and received a blessing from Bishop Lucia.