By Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ
Editor’s note: Sister Katie Eiffe is the Vicar for Religious and Diocesan Director of Synod Planning.
You have been reading about the World Synod of Bishops, and our diocesan preparation in “Listening Sessions” as a way of expressing our hopes and dreams for the Church in the Third Millennium. I’d like to share a bit more about the synodal process with this essay.
First, though, let me share with you a bit more about the Holy Father’s approach to the Synod.
In an address he delivered on Sept. 10, Pope Francis stated, “I want to say again that the Synod is not a Parliament or an opinion poll; the Synod is an ecclesial event, and its protagonist is the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit is not present, there will be no Synod.” Strong words! But they express again that the Synod is not merely another meeting of bishops; it is a process steeped in prayer and seeking the will of the Holy Spirit for our Church. It is also a process which acknowledges that all the baptized have both a right and a responsibility to share the gift of the Spirit which they have received in Baptism and Confirmation.
Last week, I shared the questions for reflection offered by Pope Francis and Bishop Douglas J. Lucia.
This week, I offer a few “focus questions” which may assist you as you reflect upon your hopes, dreams and concerns regarding the Church.
The Holy Father envisions the Church as “a church on the way,” and the Synod as a “journeying together” but begins by inviting us to reflect on our experience of Church “now.” As a preparation for the Listening Sessions, you might ponder the following:
• What has been your experience of your parish?
• What do you like about your parish?
• What could be improved?
• Who is “missing” from your parish?
• What has been your experience of the Sacraments in your parish?
• What ministries does your parish offer? (e.g., ministry to families, ministry to the sick and homebound, lifelong faith formation, ministry to youth and young adults, ministry to those living in poverty, ministry to those “on the margins” of society.)
• How do you experience the assistance of the “diocesan structure” in providing for those ministries in your parish?
Bishop Lucia, in his Pastoral Letter, asks perhaps a more pointed question:
• “How can we reflect the presence of the Risen Christ as Church?” Perhaps his question invites us to reflect upon the following:
• We know that, in the Gospels, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” He, of course, was speaking prior to his passion, death, and resurrection— and we know from the Scripture stories of that encounter that the disciples were still learning—and even Peter, who responded boldly, “You are the Christ!,” really did not understand what that meant! For when Jesus then indicated that he would be handed over to the religious leaders, be crucified, die—and rise again on the third day—Peter proclaims, “Lord, may that never happen to you!” (As an aside, I love Peter! He is so certain of his uncertainties!)
So, when we consider the Risen Christ, we might ask ourselves:
• How do you express your belief in the Risen Christ?
• How do you “encounter” the Risen Christ in your parish?
• How does the Diocesan Church help you to experience the Risen Christ?
• How does Pope Francis help you to experience the Risen Christ?
• What would help you to understand what it means to say “Christ is risen!”?
• What would help you to live your belief in the Risen Christ?
• Does “the Church” help you in your belief?
My hope is that these questions will invite you to participate in a Listening Session.
There is an updated listing of Listening Sessions at the end of this article, and there are available dates for PCA’s that have not yet scheduled a session. Check upcoming editions of The Catholic Sun for this information.
As we journey together, let us continue to pray that the Holy Spirit guide the entire Church as we prepare for and participate in the Synodal Process!
Diocesan Synodal Listening Sessions Schedule (as of 10/15/21)
Wednesday, Nov. 3rd • 6:30-8:30PM • Blessed Sacrament Church, Syracuse
Tuesday, Nov. 9th • 6:30-8:30PM• Sacred Heart Church, Cicero
Wednesday, Nov. 10th • 6:30-8:30PM • Christ the King Church, Liverpool
Wednesday, Dec. 1st • 6:30-8:30PM • Immaculate Conception Church, Fayetteville
Thursday, Dec. 2nd • 6:30-8:30PM • St. Patrick Church, Oneida
Wednesday, Dec. 6th • 6:30-8:30PM • St. Paul Church, Binghamton
Thursday, Dec. 9th • 6:30-8:30PM • Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Syracuse
Monday, Dec. 13th • 6:30-8:30PM • St. Vincent-Blessed Sacrament Church, Vestal (Note: This is a correction from what appeared in last week’s listing.)
Wednesday, Dec. 15th • 6:30-8:30PM • St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Binghamton
Tuesday, Jan. 4th • 6:30-8:30PM • St. Anthony & St. Agnes Church, Utica