The Synod on Synodality, initiated last year by Pope Francis as a two-year process of an assembly within the worldwide Church, is intended to help better explore the nature of the Church, its form, style and mission. The synod, which will lead to a meeting of bishops in Rome in 2023, is in the diocesan phase.
People across all eight counties of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland are being offered opportunities to share their thoughts on the Church in person at a listening session in their parish, at a Catholic school or in other faith-based locations.
Those not affiliated with a parish or who are unable to attend an in-person session are invited to visit the online portal by clicking here. They can participate in the process by following steps outlined in the individual participation tab.
Bishop Edward Malesic said as a Church on a journey, questions might arise such as how do we walk together better. And on the way, how do we evangelize the word with the fire of faith? Or, how do we improve our engagement with people on the peripheries?
According to the bishop, “The purpose of the process is not to gather personal opinions, but to ‘listen to the Holy Spirit,’ the pope said.”
He explained that the pope is asking everyone to pray, talk and listen – together – remembering that all of us by virtue of our baptism are called to be active participants in the life of the Church. “We all have a voice and a story that needs to be shared – and we need to listen to one another,” he added.
Lynette Saenz, assistant secretary for Parish Life and Development, said the diocesan synod committee is hoping most people will be able to attend an in-person session. She and Father Damian Ference, vicar for evangelization, are leading the diocesan synodal process. Assisting them are members of the Parish Life and Development staff and others across the diocese who were trained as facilitators to lead the listening sessions.
Seminarians at Borromeo and Saint Mary seminaries had a chance to give their input recently.
Francine Costantini, director of youth ministry for the diocese, served as facilitator for each session.
After completing the listening session with the Borromeo seminarians, Costantini asked them what they thought of it. Most told her it wasn’t what they expected.
“I asked, ‘Is that a good thing or a bad thing?’” she said. “They laughed and said, ‘Definitely a good thing.’”
Costantini said there was a lot of joy in the room as they had an opportunity to listen to each other’s faith stories, noting that they hadn’t done much of that before. One of the action steps suggested at one table was for the diocese to develop some type of training on how to gather in small groups and share faith stories. Ironically, she said that’s what the synodal process does.
It was interesting to see the differences between the two seminaries, she said, noting the Borromeo students (undergraduates) were more focused on listening to personal encounter stories dealing with their personal discernment and formation.
The Saint Mary seminarians (graduate school) were more outwardly focused on how to encourage accompaniment between the seminary and the community, Costantini said. “They are being formed for mission, to be sent out of the seminary, and they were focused on that.” She thought there were healthy dynamics in each group.
“The seminarians know what it is to accompany one another on their faith journey. I think the synod process helped them start some new faith conversations. It was a privilege to be part of it with them,” she added.
Bishop Malesic encourages everyone to be involved in the process by attending a listening session or weighing in online.
Results will be summarized and submitted to the national level, he said, and then the national information will be summarized and submitted to Rome.
“In 2023, the Synod of Bishops will gather to reflect on what the Church is saying and, it seems likely, that the Holy Father will issue a document on the subject of being Church better as we walk together with the same vision, mission and destiny,” he said.
“My prayer is that with the Holy Spirit to guide us, what flows from this synod will preserve the fire of faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior through the ages.”
For more information on the synod, click here.