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Ashley McKinlessOctober 20, 2023
Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez joins college students, other young adults and ministry leaders during a synodal listening session at La Salle University April 4, 2022. (CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.com)

Last week in my synod diary, I offered my confession as a Catholic headline writer. This week, I have another confession: I did not take part in my parish’s listening session during the diocesan phase of the synod in 2021-22. I do remember hearing an announcement about it at the end of Mass once, but at the time, I was having trouble grasping the importance of a “synod on synodality.” Around the office we joked that it was basically a “meeting about meetings.” I really didn’t need another meeting in my life, much less on a weekend.

In the year leading up to the first synod gathering at the Vatican, I began to feel a bit hypocritical. On the “Jesuitical” podcast, Zac and I covered the results of the diocesan and continental discussions and tried to drum up interest in the synod—even as we struggled to understand it. Who was I to be an evangelist for synodality when I hadn’t taken the time to listen to my fellow Catholics in Brooklyn?

Now I am here in Rome, and I’m finally starting to get it—and regretting that I didn’t get it early. I’ve now spoken with many people about how transformational their participation in the synod has been. One of those people is José Manuel de Urquidi, a voting member with the Latin American delegation, who we interviewed on “Jesuitical” this week. José helped to lead the “digital synod,” an effort to reach younger people and people alienated from the institutional church who live much of their lives online.  

I told José that I was embarrassed that I did not take part in the local synod, and he assured me: It’s not too late. The year between the end of this session and the second session next October, is a time for more reflecting, more listening, more “conversations in the Spirit.” José and his fellow “digital missionaries” will continue their work of evangelizing the world of TikTok and blogs, and while we don’t know how much we will learn about the discussions here in Rome, we do know that the whole point of the synod is to create a listening church at all levels. And that listening involves all of us. Speaking at the press conference earlier this week, the Nigerian theologian Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, S.J., put it this way: “The work of the synod will begin when the gatherings here end.” 

So if you are like me and feel like you missed your chance to be a part of the synod, do not despair—and don’t wait for permission to bring synodal conversations to your parish, school or Facebook feed.

More synod news:

  • The Vatican announced that the synod will issue a “Letter to the People of God” at the close of the first session, which ends Oct. 29
  • Members are currently discussing the third of the major themes of the synod: Participation, governance and authority. 
  • While giving a spiritual reflection at the introduction of the module on participation, Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., talked about an emotional moment that occured inside the synod hall: “Many of us wept when we heard of that young woman who committed suicide because she was bisexual and did not feel welcomed.” “I hope it changed us,” he added. 
  • The Tablet reported that “[a]t least one prelate has stormed out of the hall.” 

Listen to our recent podcasts from Rome:

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