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Synod 2021 – 2023: For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission

“A synodal church is a church that listens.”
Pope Francis

In the fall of 2021, Pope Frances opened a three-phase synod process from the Vatican. The Holy Father asked dioceses, religious communities, and Catholic institutions to come together to listen, discuss, and contemplate, in a process he called synodality. As of October 2023, the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is now complete. The synthesis document is available below in English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, and Italian.

The North American Continental Stage of the Synod is now complete.

The North American Final Document for the Continental Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod marks the end of the Continental Stage of the 2021-2024  Synod: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission. For the North American Continental Stage, the United States and Canada held twelve virtual assemblies: seven in English, three in Spanish, and two in French between December 2022 and January 2023. In total, 931 delegates and 146 bishops from Canada and the United States were appointed to participate in one of these twelve assemblies to share their reflections and responses to the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) issued by the Holy See’s General Secretariat of the Synod in October 2022. Those reflections were brought together by the North American Writing Team to create the Final Document.

– USCCB: North American Final Document for the Continental Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod
What is a Synod?

‘Synod’ is an ancient and venerable word in the Tradition of the Church, whose meaning draws on the deepest themes of Revelation […] It indicates the path along which the People of God walk together. Equally, it refers to the Lord Jesus, who presents Himself as ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (Jn 14,6), and to the fact that Christians, His followers, were originally called ‘followers of the Way’ (cf. Acts 9,2; 19,9.23; 22,4; 24,14.22).

What is Synodality?

First and foremost, synodality denotes the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the Church, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. Synodality ought to be expressed in the Church’s ordinary way of living and working.

What is the current Synod?

In the ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops in October 2015, Pope Francis declared that “the world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission.” (For a Synodal Church handbook) This call to cooperate in the mission of the Church is addressed to the entire People of God. In April 2021, Pope Francis initiated a synodal journey of the whole People of God which began October 2021 in each local Church and will culminate in October 2023 with the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

What is the aim of this Synod?

The objective of this Synodal Process is not to provide a temporary or one-time experience of synodality, but rather to provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward on the path towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term.

Pope Francis characterizes the two interrelated goals of this process of listening: “to listen to God, so that with him we may hear the cry of his people; to listen to his people until we are in harmony with the will to which God calls us.”

This opportunity for introspection was kicked off in the Archdiocese of New York on October 17, 2021, with an introductory Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral celebrated by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan (below).

During his homily, the cardinal referred to this communal exploration “as an examination of conscience on how we, as a Church are living up to the model of the Church given by Jesus.”

“The Church is of divine origin but is composed of very human membership.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan

The archdiocese was fortunate to have more than 4,000 people contribute to various listening and discernment sessions. The listening sessions began within the deaneries during the season of Lent. The sessions continued with a diverse cross-section of our community, including but not limited to the St. John Vianney Clergy Residence, ArchCare residents in person and via Zoom, students from our Catholic schools and religious education programs, and Obreros Unidos, a Catholic Charities’ day laborer community – among many others, including an online bilingual listening session.

At the end of this past spring, our synod activity had been completed, and we began the process of harmonizing the results.

Through reflection and review, we distilled our focus for the future to four goals:

Re-establishing Catholic culture

Within the Archdiocese, we will focus efforts on helping parishes re-establish and maintain a Catholic culture, by helping our people grow to understand and embrace what it means to be Catholic, including educating adults on the foundations of the faith.

Increase awareness of our good works

In order to better evangelize the people and share news about the mission of the Archdiocese of New York, including its parishes, schools, charities, and other institutions, we will develop a comprehensive “digital newsroom” to more effectively communicate with the faithful.

Intentional support for evangelization and faith formation efforts at the parish level

We will provide parishes with opportunities for increased evangelization, as well as quality prayer experiences, faith sharing, and formation to nurture the community aspect of the parish. We will also implement a new vision for parish faith formation through our Department of Youth Faith Formation.

Consulting our clergy about synodality

We will be consulting our clergy on a broader level about their thoughts on how to grow in synodality within the parishes and with our archdiocesan offices.

In addition, we will be working on more plans within the Catholic Center.

A copy of our results has been sent to the United States Conference of Bishops for further reflection and discussion. You can find the results of our Synodal Synthesis here. Haga clic aquí para la descarga en español. You will see it outlines the most prevalent themes we found in the conversations held with our community.

The National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America is available from the USCCB here in English and Spanish.

We are deeply grateful to those who led and supported the synodal process. We would like to recognize the team members who hosted and facilitated listening sessions, as well as those who synthesized feedback for their local reports. We are especially indebted to everyone who attended the listening sessions. It is only because of their willing spirits and open hearts that we were able to realize so much through these sessions.

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