Le Moyne president among those who find synodal listening session instructive
By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
As directed, they shared their hopes, dreams and concerns—and the first speaker even made an offer.
“I offer to pay for one-third of the postage stamps for an effort toward world peace by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,” the speaker said in reference to the current urgent need for food relief in Afghanistan.
That speaker, a parishioner at St. John the Baptist Church in Syracuse, was one of 25 who addressed Bishop Douglas J. Lucia at the Jan. 27 diocesan listening session in preparation for the 2023 World Synod of Bishops. Bishop Lucia has committed to attend listening sessions in every diocesan PCA (Pastoral Care Area) and related institutions to prepare. The Diocese of Syracuse will then compile a 10-page report that will be included in the reports that the U.S. bishops send to the Vatican.
Bishop Lucia’s role is not to offer instant answers to speakers, but to listen. Notes from listening sessions held around the globe will be assimilated and the resulting topics prepared for Pope Francis and bishops to discuss for the ongoing guidance of the universal Church. Locally, our Diocesan Synod will follow in 2024.
Each listening session poses questions such as these:
• What could be improved in your parish? Diocese? Universal Church?
• How do you “encounter” the Risen Christ in your life?
• How have you experienced “journeying together” in your parish, with other parishes, with the diocese, as part of the Universal Roman Catholic Church?
About 100 people attended the Jan. 27 listening session—“this is a beautiful church,” one of them said of SJB. One speaker said he was 26; another, 88.
“This is such a joyous evening, really, that we can come together like this and speak freely and essentially agree to disagree on so many, many things,” said Le Moyne College President Dr. Linda M. LeMura, “while at the same time we share a belief in the … truth of the Catholic Church.”
Concern for Afghanistan
The first speaker said 23 million people out of a population of about 38 million in Afghanistan are at risk of life and their good health. “Who did Mother Teresa famously serve?” the man asked. “It wasn’t Christians, on the whole.” The man said Christ’s stance was “when you trade with people doing good, that’s not nearly as ethically, morally high-minded you might say as doing something for someone who can’t do anything for you, which is this case essentially.”
Many speakers focused on answering the question “What has been your experience of Church in your parish and diocese?”
Coleen Fox, a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Fairmount, said, “I attended Catholic schools from first through 12th grade. I can remember how proud I was to wear my school uniform when my mom would pick me up for doctors, dentist appointments. From Syracuse to Michigan …, my siblings and my 17 cousins were so proud of our Catholic schools. This was our families’ tradition and devotion for generations.
“Sadly, I haven’t felt that feeling of pride for a while now. Is it gone forever? I’ve asked myself many times how can this be happening? … We don’t attend Mass in caves, we are not persecuted, but where have all the people gone?
“Last fall, I received a newsletter from the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. As newsletters go, we were informed of current events, upcoming events and updates on sisters we have lost. I felt the usual sadness by this news but then the letter went on to say, ‘In our community, we are 300 strong’! I need to repeat this: ‘We are 300 strong!’ That feeling of pride that I’ve been searching for finally came back. … The sisters would never give up and neither can we!”
Fox added that in recent years, she has been a sponsor at three confirmations. “I’ve told all of them,” she said of those confirmed, “they are the future of our Church. We all need to stand tall—we need to be energetic as we express pride in our Catholic faith.”
A teacher at Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School in Syracuse said she would like to see better formation for teachers there. She sees her vocation as a mission and she said, “I chose to teach in a Catholic school because it’s a perfect place to evangelize.”
Another speaker who identified herself as a teacher agreed that Catholic schools represent the “best way to evangelize.”
A third teacher who spoke is a 26-year-old who works at a public school. “What was attractive to me as a young person about the Catholic faith,” he said, “was that it stuck to its truths and it was something to believe in, it was something to come back to; it didn’t bend with the mood of the moment and it didn’t change from time to time; it stood strong, and it stood up for what it believes in. …
“I think for me, it’s important the Church sticks to what it has always believed in and that it does not update its teachings to fit” the current mood. “That could be a dangerous thing.”
‘You gave me a home’
A young man identified himself as a traditionalist. He told the bishop: “I just want to take the time to thank you. You confirmed me. You gave me a home.”
The young man said he is just a little frustrated because the Holy Father, whom he wants to love so much, “calls people like me rigid.”
(The speaker did not identify the exact quote from Pope Francis. Last September, Catholic News Service reported the pope advised people not to listen to “fundamentalists” who claim holiness comes through following certain laws. The pope said the belief that holiness comes by observing particular laws “leads us to a rigid religiosity, a rigidity that eliminates that freedom of the Spirit which Christ’s redemption gives us. Beware of this rigidity that they propose.”)
Dr. LeMura of Le Moyne College respectfully requested that Bishop Lucia join in taking a look at the future of Catholic education in the diocese. She wants Catholic education to be “vibrant and affordable,” with a “sincere commitment to imbuing the faith to believers, nonbelievers, non-Catholics alike. And why do we do that? Because we are Catholic. And that’s what we do. … We don’t need to proselytize—people will see the joy in how we present ourselves.”
A speaker who was born in 1971 said he remembers “teen Masses growing up where we would all be around the altar.” He said it surprises him that the “Church wants to hide” the traditional Mass.
(Catholic News Service reported last year that an apostolic letter by Pope Francis “overturned or severely restricted the permissions St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had given to celebrate the so-called Tridentine-rite Mass as an outreach to followers of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and to minister to Catholics attached to the older ritual.”)
A call for Bible study
Here are some other statements offered by speakers:
• Acknowledge the Catechism.
• We are called to serve one another. Walk humbly with God.
• The Church can heal people’s lives.
• Small-group Bible studies with carefully chosen content are needed.
• Living our faith is the most important thing we can do.
• There are many great speakers in the diocese; homilies from different parishes are still remembered.
Those who prefer to comment in writing may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail a letter to Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, Diocesan Director of Synodal Planning, 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, NY 13202. For further information, go to syracusediocese.org and click on the Diocesan Synod tab.
“Thank you for sharing tonight and for sharing your faith; and certainly this is all about the journey of faith,” Bishop Lucia told the gathering. He said that one of the evening’s comments that stayed with him was “how we need to really support one another in that journey.”
One of the speakers, a man who prays the rosary, supports the bishop in the journey: “Thanks for your treatment of the traditionalists, and I’ll continue to pray for you.”