In October 2021, Pope Francis announced the opening of the path entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission”.
With this convocation, Pope Francis invites the entire Church to reflect on a theme that is decisive for its life and mission: This journey, which follows in the wake of the Church’s “renewal” proposed by the Second Vatican Council, is both a gift and a task: by journeying together and reflecting together on the journey that has been made, the Church will be able to learn through Her experience which processes can help Her to live communion, to achieve participation, to open Herself to mission.
As illustrated below, this synodal journey began in the fall of 2021 at the local diocesan level, includes discussion at Episcopal conferences and concludes in Rome at the Synod of Bishops in October 2023.
What is the Purpose of the Synod?
The true purpose of the Synod is to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission. The objective then is not just a series of exercises that start and stop, but rather a journey of growing together by using the synodal process on an ongoing basis.
Although the consultation with the People of God does not imply the assumption within the Church of the dynamics of democracy based on the principle of majority (in other words, this is an ecclesial process that can only take place at the heart of a hierarchically structured community), in the end, this Synodal Process seeks to move towards a Church that is more fruitfully at the service of the coming of the kingdom of heaven.
What does this Synodal process mean for us in the Diocese of Rockford?
On October 17, 2021 Bishop Malloy opened the synodal process at the Cathedral of St. Peter by asking the faithful to “listen to one another” and warned against “soundproofing our hearts and remaining barricaded in our certainties”. He went on to suggest that when we follow Jesus in listening with the heart that “people feel they are being heard, not judged; they feel free to recount their own experiences and their spiritual journey.”
With this foundation, the synodal listening journey began in the Diocese.
Multiple participation avenues were created to collect synodal feedback here in the Diocese. These avenues included listening sessions held at the Diocesan Administration Center, sessions held at parishes, and electronic surveys available on the Diocesan website (several parishes also used paper copies of the survey). This listening phase began in November, 2021 and ended in May, 2022.
The questions participants were asked to consider for the Synod were:
Community Question: “Journeying together” is only possible if it is based on communal listening to the Word and celebration of the Eucharist. How do prayer and liturgical celebrations inspire and guide our common life and mission? When have they inspired the most important decisions in your life and the Church’s life? When have they not?
Participation Question: How have you and others participated in the everyday life of the Church? What joys did that participation provoke? When have you or others chosen not to participate and what were the obstacles that stood in the way? How does our church community form people to be more capable of “walking together,” listening to one another, participating in mission, and engaging in dialogue?
Mission Question: The mission of evangelization is entrusted by Christ to his Church to be carried out in all her forms of ministry, witness and service. In what ways has the Church lived its mission? What areas of the mission could be better lived? What experiences of dialogue and collaboration do we have with believers of other religions and with those who have no religious affiliation? How does the Church help members to live out their service to society in a missionary way?
What were the results of Synod process here in our Diocese?
In all, more than 2,000 individual comments were received and summarized. In reading and categorizing the comments, ten specific themes emerged:
- Theme 1: Respondents feel a sense of communion and participate in parish life when they are welcomed and feel connected to a strong and active parish community. They withdraw when they do not.
- Theme 2: There is an urgent need for Catholics to recognize the Real Presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist
- Theme 3: People are inspired by the Mass when reverence is obvious and homilies are tied to the struggles and events in the world.
- Theme 4: Parish-sponsored activities and events are very important.
- Theme 5: Both adult and youth formation are key to Communion, Participation and Mission
- Theme 6: A disciplined and serious prayer life coupled with regular Mass attendance keeps people in communion with the Church and inspires and guides them in their daily life.
- Theme 7: There is a need to encounter people wherever they are on their faith journey and accompany them on a one-to-one basis along that path.
- Theme 8: Vagueness and imprecise language from Rome sometimes causes confusion among the faithful that makes fulfilling the Church’s mission more difficult.
- Theme 9: Working with and partnering with other faiths has slowed.
- Theme 10: We as a Church could do a better job of evangelizing youth
What are the next steps for the Synod?
In June, 2022 the Diocese submitted these 10 themes to the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) along with other dioceses across all 15 membership regions.
Over the summer, these reports were then used by the USCCB to produce a National Synthesis that attempted to summarize each of the individual diocesan reports. This report can be accessed here.
The “Continental Phase” is the next step in the process. In this phase the United States Synod Team will be collaborating with the Canadian Synod Team to produce a Continental Synthesis report. Similarly, other areas of the world will be collaborating within their own areas to produce Continental Syntheses. These are all due to the Synod Secretariat on March 31, 2023.
The Continental Syntheses will form the foundation of the Instrumentum Laboris (expected in June 2023) for the Universal Phase of the Synod to be held in Rome in October 2023. In October 2023, Pope Francis will then convene a Synod of Bishops to review all reports and determine how he would like to proceed.
More information will be shared on this page as it becomes available.