Kerry Alys Robinson

In candor and charity

Thursday, April 21, 2022

I have always loved our church’s sense of liturgical proportion: 40 days of Lent followed by 50 days of joyful celebration constituting the Easter season.

Metaphorically, it has been a long Lent — two years of pandemic Lent, and many more years before that of divided
-nation Lent. I confess to no shortage of dismay that the church was as susceptible to divisiveness, acrimony, vitriol and partisanship as our country was. How can that be when we are invited to one eucharistic table, belong to one human family, and are called to be known for our love and mercy, the better to emulate Christ?

From the very first day I met him, many years ago, I both admired and listened carefully to Cardinal Blase Cupich. There are many things he has said that have remained with me, but his reflections on our collective path forward, on learning to live synodally, are particularly compelling and seem especially important for the season in which we now find ourselves.

“The church is not fully church if it lacks dialogue. We have to learn. We have to listen to where people are. We have to listen to where the Spirit is working in the lives of people,” he said.

Before we could spell, much less pronounce, “synodal leadership,” we unwittingly committed to emulate the very characteristics that best define it nearly 20 years ago when, in the wake of the clergy abuse crisis, Leadership Roundtable was founded.

When I heard Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, delineate the attributes that are important for a successful synodal process, I was struck by how resonant it was with the guiding principles of Leadership Roundtable.

When we were founded, we committed to these attributes in order to be faithful to our mission to serve the church. We prioritize candor and charity, deep listening and dialogue, the presumption of goodness in one another, the value of diverse points of view and experiences, the confidence that everyone has a piece of the wisdom and a conviction that there is strength in unity.

We commit to prayer in all our meetings and introduce moments of silence to allow us to be conscious of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We emulate and advocate for co-responsibility in leadership. We literally chose a round table, where everyone has a seat, to define who we are and how we would relate to one another.

Recently, we made the bold decision to eliminate the CEO role and form a partnership of five co-equal partners, each with our own portfolio of collaborative responsibility. At the same time, co-chairs were elected by the board. This intentional design offers an alternative to a hierarchical mindset and construct.

Pope Francis is inviting all of us to live synodally; doing so could radically help us address the pressing challenges and pandemics of our times: growing inequity and disparity, racial injustice, environmental degradation, precarious mental health, gun violence in the United States and a barbaric war in Ukraine. Learning to live synodally will help heal the divisions and lessen the chasms within our church, our country and our world.

The potential of this invitation to dream a new way of being in relationship to one another and a more faithful way of being church is an Easter gift of new life not to be squandered. It begins with each one of us and takes all of us to listen, imagine, discern and reconcile.

Strengthening the church allows the church to better attend to its mission and helps it to be a beneficial presence in the world, a sign of hope, a conduit for justice and peace and a reflection of God’s love for creation.



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