By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Pope Francis is asking Catholics worldwide to reflect on what God expects of the Church of the third millennium in a process called a diocesan synod. This prayerful discernment process will help to inform the World Synod of Bishops in 2023.
In the Diocese of Davenport, Bishop Thomas Zinkula will open the diocesan synod with Mass on Oct. 17 at 9 a.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. All are welcome to attend in person or to watch the live streamed Mass on the Sacred Heart Cathedral YouTube channel (click on it from the cathedral’s home page).
“Since Vatican II, representative bishops from around the world have gathered regularly with the Bishop of Rome for a synod. Through these synods, the Holy Father is able to hear from bishops from every corner of the Church, consult them in matters of importance, join with them in prayer and discernment, and so better guide the Church,” said Deacon Frank Agnoli, the diocesan director of liturgy.
He notes “‘synod’ is not a familiar word for most Catholics. It’s a Greek word, basically meaning to ‘walk with.’” Throughout our history, it’s been used to refer to gatherings of the Church to ‘walk with’ one another and with the Holy Spirit, to read ‘the signs of the times’ and discern in a spirit of prayer how the Church is being called to respond.”
The synod reflects on who we are as Church and how we are called to be Church, Deacon Agnoli said. “We are the body of Christ, sharers — whether lay or ordained — in a common baptism. All have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our oneness as Christ’s body is celebrated, manifested and deepened when we gather for Eucharist. We are in this together, not as isolated individuals or as ideological camps.”
“We are to be humble in listening and courageous in speaking, open to conversion and change. Dialogue and discernment are to be the order of the day. That dialogue needs to include others with whom we share a common baptism, those of other faiths or no faith at all, and, especially, those on the margins, whose voices are rarely heard.”
Pope Francis delayed the scheduled World Synod of Bishops from 2022 to 2023 to allow for this more inclusive process, Deacon Agnoli said. “The Church is gathering around this question: 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 in our ‘journeying together?’”
Diocesan leaders received the preparatory documents for the diocesan synod a week ago. “We are still discerning how best we are going to do this process,” said Father Thom Hennen, the diocese’s vicar general and pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral. “I think it is a beautiful process, but like many things in the Church, it’s probably going to be messy. It’s probably not going to be perfect. The fact that the Holy Father is asking for this and wants to hear from local dioceses and voices outside the church is the beginning of a good process. Before you do anything, listening is always a good first step. I think that’s what this process represents.” One of the challenges is figuring out effective ways to listen to voices outside the church, Father Hennen added.
“This process is about how to walk together as Church. I think we have forgotten how to walk together,” said Patrick Schmadeke, diocesan director of Evangelization. “In the midst of polarization, we need to gather around the table again with one another to talk about what it means to be Church, parish communities, members of a larger diocesan community, and how to live as Church in today’s world. It is a time to slow down and to ask the Holy Spirit where we should be going from here.”