Archdiocese to launch local synod effort on Oct. 24

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, October 6, 2021

This is the official logo for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Originally scheduled for 2022, the synod will take place in October 2023 to allow for broader consultation at diocesan, national and regional levels. (CNS photo/courtesy Synod of Bishops)

Pope Francis was to formally launch the process of the Synod of Bishops with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 10, with dioceses around the world launching their local efforts in subsequent weekends.

The Archdiocese of Chicago will kick off its effort with a Mass with Cardinal Cupich on Oct. 24, World Mission Sunday, at Holy Name Cathedral.

The theme chosen by Pope Francis for the 2023 Synod of Bishops is: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”

“The Synod of Bishops convene to explore a new dimension of church understanding in our age,” explained Msgr. Patrick Pollard, who is leading the local effort with Father Louis Cameli. “It’s just beautiful. Part of the handbook said, ‘Synods are a time to dream and to spend time with the future.’”

During the local process, bishops will ask members of the church to read through a prepared handbook and answer one question.

“The fundamental question they are asking is, ‘A synodal church in announcing the Gospel journeys together. How is this journeying together happening today in your local church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow journeying together?’” Pollard said.

To listen to the Holy Spirit, members of the church must listen to each other and especially to those who are marginalized, Pope Francis said, explaining how dioceses are to help the church prepare for the Synod of Bishops during a meeting with members of his diocese, the Diocese of Rome, in the Paul VI audience hall Sept. 18.

This means that, for example, “the poor, the homeless, young people addicted to drugs, everyone that society rejects are part of the synod” because God says they are part of the church, he said.

“So often the ‘rejects’ become the ‘cornerstones’ and those who are ‘far off’ become ‘near.’ The marginalized, the poor, those without hope were elected to the sacrament of Christ. This is the way the church is,” Pope Francis said.

Pollard called the question posed by the Vatican “fascinating.”

“It’s like what Chicago Catholic does week after week. It brings to the faithful what’s happening throughout the archdiocese because we become so localized and we only think of what our parish is doing or not doing,” he said.

This question asks people to recall their experiences and discover where the voice of the Holy Spirit keeps “sounding again and again in our ears,” he said.

The question harkens back to the Second Vatican Council document “Lumen Gentium,” which asks what it means to fully participate in faith communities, Pollard added.

Cardinal Cupich has invited his consultative bodies to contribute to the effort. That includes the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, Archdiocesan Women’s Commission, Diaconate Council, Presbyteral Council, Consejo Hispano and religious communities of women and men.

The cardinal has also given parishes permission to celebrate the Mass for a Council or Synod the weekend of Oct. 23-24.

Participants are asked to send their responses to the archdiocese by Feb. 1, 2022. Then the archdiocese will condense the responses into a 10-page paper to be submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pollard said. The conference will collect the responses from all U.S. dioceses and use them to create a national report to be sent to the Vatican by April. These reports will be the basis for the synod at the Vatican in 2023, Catholic News Service reported.

Since the Second Vatican Council, popes have convened synods of bishops periodically to address certain topics in church life. Synods are gatherings of designated officials and representatives of a church, and they can take place on a diocesan, national or international level.

“The Holy Father is inviting us to a church which keeps reflecting on the Spirit’s movement in our lives and the lives of our communities. It has a certain amount of fluidity to it,” Pollard said.

“Some people are excited about the process, but others are frightened about it.”

“The Synod of Bishops is saying, don’t focus on what the ultimate product is going to be. Focus on the process itself and how the Spirit will guide the church, represented in part through subsidiarity in the work that you are doing at the diocesan level,” said Julia McStravog, a former USCCB employee who is a consultant to the bishops on the process. The diocesan consultations also are an invitation to creativity, McStravog said.

“This is a moment to be co-creators with the Spirit. ... It is a chance for reinvigorating an engaged community through creativity and the call to be open. There’s a chance to reaffirm the good and reimagine some things that could be better,” she explained.

As dioceses prepare for the listening sessions, McStravog said the discussions present an opportunity for “gentleness and grace” to take hold within the church.

“This is a spiritual exercise,” she said. “It’s not just a bureaucratic or ecclesial exercise. It’s a spiritual exercise for the individual, for the parish, for the community, for the diocese and for the church in America at large.”

McStravog also echoed the pope’s Sept. 18 call to members of his diocese, the Diocese of Rome, to go to the margins to ensure that “the poor, the homeless, young people addicted to drugs, everyone that society rejects are part of the synod.”

“One of the questions is listening. How do we actually listen? It goes back to the invitation. The onus is on the diocese to really think through who is often excluded from our table. The church needs to go out and invite people back in,” McStravog said.



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Contributing to this story was Catholic News Service


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