Invigorating the Universal Church
In 2021, Pope Francis invited the whole Church to a discussion of synodality. If the word takes you by surprise, you’re not alone. While the concept of synod, or church council, is not new, you won’t find synodality in a secular dictionary. The term was chosen by Pope Francis, whose papacy has often focused on evangelization. With synodality, the Pope is carefully placing evangelization into the hands of the Church’s people. From now until 2023, the pursuit of synodality calls Catholics to get together, to talk and listen, and to love and learn in a deliberate effort to move closer to Christ and the Church.
On Tuesday, January 18, I was a humble participant in a synodal conversation with more than 90 clergy and lay leaders from parishes in one pastoral zone of the Catholic Diocese of Calgary. We met via Zoom to talk about Pope Francis’s vision and to meet the Diocesan team who spent months preparing for a host of virtual gatherings. After the pastoral zone meetings are done in early February, similar e-meets (and in-person whenever possible) will be held with lay Catholics. I plan to participate again.
Bishop William McGrattan is optimistic that all of these prayerful discussions will shape the Church’s mission of service and proclamation of the gospel. Based on my experience, and several conversations the next day, I think he has reason to be hopeful. Why? Because we can’t un-spill milk.
Relationships require understanding
Almost 30 years ago, my husband and I participated in a Marriage Encounter weekend. One of my biggest takeaways was the notion that healthy relationships require that we understand that it is impossible to un-spill milk. What’s happened matters. What happens next is even more important.
I take that same concept into discussions of my experience with the universal Church. I won’t discuss confidential information shared as part of the synodal conversation. (Organizers did a great job of breaking us out into smaller groups.) I will say that I think it matters that Catholics, including lay members, are being asked, “How have you experienced journeying together as the Church?”
For some of us, the question is fraught and the answers uncomfortable. But just like you cannot un-spill milk, I’m confident that a prayerful people, guided by the Holy Spirit, will not be able to unknow what they hear at meetings like these. Information changes people. It shapes new discussions. More than anything else, it demands care.
In addition to being asked about our personal experience of the journey “as Church,” synodal participants are being asked what steps the Holy Spirit is inviting “us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’” Again, I think that’s a valuable question as it puts action back into the hand of the Church’s people.
In addition to gathering information about these two questions, the very process strengthens the relationships fundamental to our parish communities. Several participants told me (or my editor) that they appreciated the opportunity to gather with people they know; an opportunity complicated by the global pandemic, yet aided by technology and, most obviously, the Holy Spirit.
More importantly, feedback to me implies people felt empowered by the prayers and the discussions. They are already talking about their synodal experiences with Catholic peers. They are encouraging others to take part. Like Bishop McGrattan, they are hopeful. I take comfort in that hope, fueled as it is by two other theological virtues, faith and love.
Written by Joy Gregory for Faithfully. Joy Gregory is a writer, cradle Catholic, and long-time parishioner of St. Peter’s, Calgary, where she’s been active in preschool catechism programs, RCIA, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
1/24/2022 08:34:11 am
All things impossible for humans are easy for the Lord. Jesus Christ is so smart that boiling down the richness and expansive virtue of Charity to just love is possibly an uncharitable act in and of itself.- A humble servant of Christ.
Maria Cristina Parra
1/24/2022 03:30:36 pm
I am happy to know that the the sinodality process has started here in Calgary! I am from Venezuela (South America) and because I keep in touch with the news from the Church in my country and in Latin America, I knew that this sinodality had started there at least since the begining of 2021. I was wondering when I would know that in Calgary we could also participate, not only the lay leaders but the ordinary catholic people. I wish to know how we can take part of it!
1/25/2022 08:20:27 am
Are you suggesting that we should forget all the history of our church up to Vatican II ? Let’s face it Vatican II have caused major problems in the church. We have lost countless priests and nuns. Vocations are almost nonexistent and we are totally dependant on foreigners.
1/27/2022 01:16:11 pm
Theo van Besouw
3/29/2022 02:40:47 pm
1/25/2022 10:11:56 am
I am super extra grateful to be a part of this process. I was deeply moved and inspired by Pope Francis' extraordinary jubilee year of mercy and even more so by the initiation of this synod. I, along with so many other Catholics, are anticipating great things "more than we can ask or imagine." (Eph 3:20). When this fully unfolds I'm hopeful that we will experience a much kinder, gentler, more compassionate and understanding people of God. Thanks for listening =)
1/29/2022 04:45:59 pm
I hope that a broad number of people are included in this discussion including those who have left the church. Church numbers are continuing to decline a we need to know the reasons why. The Bible tells us that Christ came to speak to all, and make all aware of God’s love and compassion. The Church should do the same.
1/31/2022 10:43:17 pm
I’m glad someone seems to understand this. None of this makes sense to me. While I am interested and desiring to respond to the Pope, I am unlikely to participate much in something I don’t understand or “get”
2/1/2022 02:29:48 pm
I am hoping that this process will bring ordinary parishioners like myself into the process of participating and understanding the synod process. Parishioners need to realize that it is not enough to just attend Mass, but they need to truly hear the gospels and to realize that we receive Jesus in the eucharist, the eucharist is not a cookie.
Theo van Besouw
3/28/2022 05:55:05 pm
Contrary to the opinion exppressed by Bill that Vatican II caused major problems in the Church, I think that the content of the documents and subsequental encyclicicals by Popes have not been properly explained to parishioners. After reading "Vatican II Collection" by Bishop Robert Barron it became abundantly clear that the roadmap of the RC is extremely well laid out and that all Popes draw their inspiration from the extraordinairy visions of (a.o.) Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The result of Vatican II is nothing short of astounding in terms of providing a crystal clear vision as to improving responsibility in terms of social justice, christian brotherhood, environmental responsibility, sexuality, family unity and bringing the teachings of Christ to the fringes (breaking out the bastions).
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers