On the evening of Oct. 24, Cardinal Cupich launched the local process for the 2021-2023 Synod of Bishops with an opening Mass at Holy Name Cathedral. He was joined by the archdiocese’s auxiliary bishops and members of Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, Archdiocesan Women’s Commission, Diaconate Council, Presbyteral Council, Consejo Hispano and religious communities of women and men who will help Cardinal Cupich with the local synod process. The theme chosen by Pope Francis for the 2023 Synod of Bishops is: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.” During phase one of the local process, from October 2021 through April 2022, each diocese will promote a special time of prayer, listening and dialogue. Each listening phase will be adapted to local circumstances. Bishops will ask members of the church to read through a prepared handbook and answer a fundamental question provided by the Vatican: How is journeying together happening today in our local church and what steps does the Holy Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our journeying together? Cardinal Cupich has invited his consultative bodies to contribute to this effort. Participants are asked to send their responses to the archdiocese by April 1, 2022, through an online portal found at archchicago.org/news-and-events/synod. The archdiocese will then condense the responses into a 10-page paper to be submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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 Aug. 15, 2022. Vatican officials will create a first draft of the synod’s “instrumentum laboris”, or working document, from the submitted texts. From September 2022 through March 2023, bishops meet in phase two of the process at the continental level to create texts about their discussions and submit them to the Vatican. A second draft of the instrumentum will be created from these texts and released by June 2023. In October 2023, the bishops will meet in Rome for the final phase. The pope will use that document to inform his decisions following the synod. During his homily, Cardinal Cupich shared his enthusiasm for the synod process. “It is a time in which the Holy Father is saying to us that we once again must harken back to those days of the Second Vatican Council when the church came to a self-understanding of itself, not as an institution or an NGO that does wonderful things, but as a pilgrim people, a people who is always on the march, who are taking up the way together as we do,” Cardinal Cupich said. “The synod process is not about a parliamentary procedure in which we are going to deal with proposals and amendments about the way the church takes certain truths and defines them. But rather, it is recapturing the enthusiasm of the Second Vatican Council by which we once again look for how we can be the church that Jesus wants us to be.” Pope John XXIII convoked the council 60 years ago and remarked that the world was entering a new era and it was the challenge of the church “to put the modern world in contact with the vivifying perennial energies of the Gospel,” the cardinal said, quoting St. John XXIII. The Gospel reading for the synod Mass was Mark 10:46-52, which was chosen by the Holy See and used by all dioceses around the world. It is all about three words — encounter, listening and discernment — Cardinal Cupich said. In this reading, Jesus encounters the blind man Bartimaeus as he is leaving Jericho. He stops to offer him healing when he could have just passed by, the cardinal noted. Jesus wanted to encounter him and see who he was. “The synod is an opportunity for us as a church to say to ourselves, ‘Who is it in the world that we are ignoring, that we pass by? How is Jesus in some way asking us to do what he did?’” Cardinal Cupich said. Jesus also listens to Bartimaeus, to what is in his heart, he said. “While this man was blind, some of Jesus’ disciples were deaf. They didn’t want to hear the cries of this man and wanted to just brush him off,” Cardinal Cupich said. “How can the church be like Jesus that really listens to where people are so that Jesus can come to them?” Finally, after Bartimaeus is healed, he must discern his new path in life. He decides to follow Jesus, Cardinal Cupich said. “How can we help people discern what pathway is open to them that the Lord is calling them to? Not necessarily pigeonholing people and saying, ‘This is what you have to do.’ But what is the next step that they can take, even if it’s incremental?” Cardinal Cupich said. At the end, it all comes back to the goal of the Second Vatican Council. “The task ahead of us is the same one that John XXIII gave us when he opened the council 60 years ago, ‘to put the modern world in contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the Gospel,’” he said. “I’m looking forward to this process and where the Holy Spirit will lead us, to think and discover the direction that he wants to lead us and enter a new era of the church,” said Bernita Ferdinand, chair of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and member of Holy Child Jesus Parish, 2324 W. Chase Ave. Ferdinand said she hopes “that it fulfills God’s plan at work.” Fellow archdiocesan pastoral council member Grace Graney from St. Cajetan Parish, 2445 W. 112th St., said the timing is right for this synod. “I think that this is a real pivotal time in the church where we can finally slow down, kind of reassess our faith, our community, and become more communal. There’s a real opportunity for input. I know the cardinal is very excited and interested and eager to get input at all levels to make sure that we all journey together through this process and really help rebuild the church in a sense in these trying times,” Graney said. “We look forward to getting together as a group and really fleshing out the questions.” Miroslawa Link is a newly appointed member of the council from St. Thomas Becket Parish in Mount Prospect. She also noted the timing of the synod. “This seems like a good time for things to happen because membership is dwindling and there’s a lot of people who are not happy. With the sexual abuse scandal, I think that turned a lot of people away,” Link said. “My faith is really important to me and I’m a practicing Catholic since I was little. I think everybody finds their own way in terms of their faith and how they decide to worship and believe.” To learn more about the synod and to respond to the synod questions, visit archchicago.org/news-and-events/synod.