Editorial: Success of the synod depends on the people’s participation

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The Diocese of Nashville has joined the rest of the Universal Church in a synod process to contemplate how God is calling the People of God to be the Church in the third millennium. It will be a two-year journey that will begin in parishes this year and culminate with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, with the theme “For a Synodal Church: communion, participation and mission,” in October 2023.  

“Synodality enables the entire People of God to walk forward together, listening to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, to participate in the mission of the Church in the communion that Christ establishes between us,” according to a document the Vatican has distributed to explain the process for dioceses, parishes and the faithful. “Ultimately, this path of walking together is the most effective way of manifesting and putting into practice the nature of the Church as the pilgrim and missionary People of God.” 

The synod process is guided by the question: “How does this ‘journeying together’ take place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal one), allowing the Church to proclaim the Gospel? And what steps is the Spirit inviting us to take in order to grow as a synodal Church?”  

But this journey can be a successful one only if Catholics participate. 

“In parishes, small Christian communities, lay movements, religious communities, and other forms of communion, women and men, young people and the elderly, we are all invited to listen to one another in order to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who comes to guide our human efforts, breathing life and vitality into the Church and leading us into deeper communion for our mission in the world,” according to the Vatican documents. 

The synod begins in our parishes and church communities. Each parish and church community has been asked to appoint someone to facilitate conversations among parishioners to address three main areas: communion, participation, and mission. There will be small group discussions scheduled among parishioners with discussion questions suggested by the Vatican.  

This is an opportunity for all Catholics to discuss their experience of the Church and to listen and learn about others’ experience. Together, we can growth in the Holy Spirit as individuals and as a Church. The process will also invite non-Catholics and fallen-away Catholics to participate. 

“Synodality represents the path by which the Church can be renewed by the action of the Holy Spirit, listening together to what God has to say to his people,” according to the Vatican’s documents. “However, this journey together not only unites us more deeply with one another as the People of God, it also sends us out to pursue our mission as a prophetic witness that embraces the entire family of humanity, together with our fellow Christian denominations and other faith traditions.” 

If attending a discussion in your parish or church community is not possible, there is another way to participate. People can go to the website for the diocesan synod process – dioceseofnashville.com/synod – and complete a survey. Once on the website, click on the “Participate” link. 

In fact, feel free to complete the survey AND attend a group discussion. 

The information that is gathered through the discussions and the survey will be compiled into a 10-page synthesis that will be posted on the diocesan synod website and provided to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The USCCB will compile all the syntheses from dioceses across the country into a report for the Vatican, which will use those reports from all the dioceses across the globe to prepare working documents for the Synod of Bishops in 2023. 

“The purpose of this Synod is not to produce more documents,” according to the Vatican. “Rather, it is intended 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. 

“Thus, the objective of this synodal process is not only a series of exercises that start and stop, but rather a journey of growing authentically towards the communion and mission that God calls the Church to live out in the third millennium.” 

This is an important opportunity to speak to the hierarchy of the Church. Don’t let it pass. Lend your voice to the synod process. 

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