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Inside the VaticanOctober 12, 2023
Julia McStravog, senior advisor on the Synod on Synodality at the U.S.C.C.B. (CNS photo/Jessica S. Zurcher)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops chose to keep a low profile in sharing its internal process to collect and synthesize the hopes and fears of U.S. Catholics that would inform the ongoing Synod on Synodality in Rome. “We really didn’t want the U.S.C.C.B. to be the center of attention,” explains Julia McStravog, “the people of God are the focus.”

In this episode of “Inside the Vatican,” host Colleen Dulle interviews Julia McStravog, a senior advisor on the Synod on Synodality at the U.S.C.C.B., to get an inside look into how the U.S. church organized itself to carry out the national and continental phases of the synod, and how those phases inform the ongoing meeting in Rome.

Julia played a pivotal role in guiding the U.S. church throughout the synod process and was a leading author of the documents representing U.S. Catholics’ concerns for the Vatican’s synod office. She describes her team’s mission as “sacred work,” stressing the need “to include as many voices as possible within the editing process” to create “documents in dialogue” such that “everyone could see a part of their experience in the documents.” Throughout this journey, she said, her team members continually asked themselves, “Is this group tasked with this sacred work—are they truly hearing right?”

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Colleen and Julia also talk about the importance of prayer and silence, and how that has been stressed from the outset of the synod process.


Julia and her team at the U.S.C.C.B. have an unofficial motto, “nimble to the Spirit,” as she puts it, meaning that they have sought to cultivate a radical openness to the Holy Spirit, wherever it may lead. This nimble disposition, enabled by prayer and reflectiveness, opens the church to the transformative power of dialogue. “One of the great things,” Julia says, “is being nimble to the spirit means that your best laid plans don’t always go that way.”

Julia is currently in Rome accompanying the U.S. delegation at the synod.

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