U.S. delegates to Synod of Bishops gather in Mundelein

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Several U.S. delegates to the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to be held in October gathered Aug. 28-29 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary for a time of spiritual reflection.

The synod is themed “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” The first session will be held at the Vatican Oct. 4-29, and the second session is scheduled for October 2024.

“Twelve of the U.S. delegates are gathered here in person to focus on fellowship and friendship in order to help them do their work in Rome together,” said Julia McStravog, senior adviser on the synod for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The group focused on spiritual reflection, studying the “Instrumentum Laboris” — the document that will guide the first synod gathering in October — and spiritually preparing for the month-long gathering, McStravog said.

The USCCB has been overseeing the synod process in the United States and working with Canada on preparing the North American response and has been a resource in accompanying the delegates, McStravog said.

“The whole synod process, I think, has been going very well in the United States,” McStravog said. “It is definitely a process. Where we were when we started in October 2021 is not where we are now in August 2023.”

Cardinal Cupich was one of the delegates who attended the gathering.

“It was a great blessing to meet the other delegates from North America as we gathered at Mundelein Seminary this week,” Cardinal Cupich said on Aug. 29. “Differing in age, ethnicity, race and background, we quickly forged a common bond in a shared commitment to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit as we prepare for our meetings in Rome this October. In these days we gave witness to the truth that a synodal church is a church of participation and co-responsibility, and that we are companions on the journey.”

“It was an honor to meet my fellow Synod delegates,” said Jesuit Father James Martin, who joined the group virtually. “The meeting organized by the USCCB was a wonderful way for all of us to come to know one another better before our time in Rome.”

Order of the Company of Mary Our Lady Sister Leticia Salazar, who serves as chancellor for the Diocese of San Bernardino, was one of the delegates who met in Mundelein. The synod process is going well, she said.

“It was expected that not everybody would participate but everybody will be heard,” she said. “I think that the great number of people that have been participating have really expressed the experience of church and the desire to be a synodal church, which is a church that listens, that learns, that asks for forgiveness and that is a church that is open to all.”

Delegate Archbishop Paul Etienne of the Archdiocese of Seattle agreed that the synod process has been positive.

“One of the messages we heard through that long, extended period of listening was just a lot of gratitude people had to be invited to share their experiences of faith,” he said. “I think they were also pleased with the format. It really began with prayer. It invited people to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. I think a lot of people initially thought, ‘Well this is my opportunity to bring my issues.’”

The voice of the Holy Spirit, as expressed in the “Instrumentum Laboris,” is the voice that the church is listening to during the synod, he said. 

Having a chance to personally connect with the other delegates at Mundelein was helpful, said Salazar.

“Just to sit down with another person and feel their love of the church and for the church and their love of the people and their commitment to really make this happen, it was like not only getting to know people through an article that you read, but you almost feel their hearts beating, their hearts moving,” Salazar said. “It really makes a difference.”

About a week before the gathering, Archbishop Etienne began praying intentionally for his role as a delegate and the upcoming gathering in Rome, he said, and that continued at Mundelein.

“It’s been fruitful having the opportunity to pray together, to socialize, to get to know each other, and we’re all looking forward to doing that in the broader context of the synod in October,” the archbishop said.

Opening ourselves up to the grace of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit is integral to the entire process, he said.

“Prayer is a key component, not only in the preparation, but even in what it means to be a synodal church. And that’s what Pope Francis is saying, and the working document explicitly states, that the goal of the synod isn’t to produce a document. The role of the synod is to help the whole universal church in its practice of becoming a synodal church and the process of being church,” he said.

Many times, people want to debate and the loudest voice wins, Salazar said, but that is not what the synodal process is about.

“This is about praying, listening to the voice of the Spirit, discernment, asking where the Lord wants to take us, how the Holy Spirit wants to use our gifts and our resources in this historical time,” she said. “Even in our poverty, how can we really be instruments to one another to continue this journey to eternal life?”


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