Catholics invited to new synod sessions

This is the official logo for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Originally scheduled for 2022, the synod will take place in October 2023 to allow for broader consultation at the diocesan, national and regional levels. (CNS Photo courtesy of Synod of Bishops)

Catholics around the world — including in the Archdiocese of Louisville — are invited once again to prayerfully reflect on their experience of the Catholic Church. These reflections will help guide the worldwide Synod on Synodality, a process of listening and dialogue that began in 2021 at the initiative of Pope Francis.

Three listening sessions are set for late February and March in the archdiocese — two in Jefferson County and one in Nelson County. 

This invitation may sound familiar. Catholics in the Archdiocese of Louisville were first asked to contribute to the Synod on Synodality in early 2022 during mostly parish-based listening sessions. Hundreds participated, and their reflections were synthesized into a 10-page document called “Journeying Together.” 

That document was sent to the U.S. bishops along with diocesan reports from around the country, resulting in a national report. The U.S. synthesis was eventually combined with Canada’s report and used by the Synod of Bishops in their gathering last October. 

Before they meet again in October 2024, Pope Francis has asked Catholics to offer additional reflections.

“It’s all about the listening and sharing. … Whatever you share with us, we share it forward,” said Richard “Tink” Guthrie, the archdiocese’s synod coordinator and vice-chancellor. “All this grassroots listening provides echoes that continue to reverberate. This is another way to participate, to share their thoughts and echoes again.”

Guthrie said the latest round of listening and sharing “is not intended to be a repetition of what we did before.”

“The bishops are saying, ‘Hearing what we’ve heard, learned and wondered,’ they’re asking us to share back yet again. That’s going to be taken into consideration by the Synod of Bishops in October 2024.”

Specifically, they’re asking Catholics to consider church life, structure and leadership. The local listening sessions will be guided by three questions:

  • Where have I experienced or witnessed ways in which Church structures, leadership, or life encourage and foster our shared mission?
  • Where have I experienced or witnessed ways in which Church structures, leadership, or life hinder our shared mission?
  • How can the Church’s structures and organization help us to proclaim the Gospel and live as a community of love and mercy in Christ?

Guthrie pointed out that the listening sessions also will be guided by synodality, focused on prayerfully listening with the help of the Holy Spirit.

“It is not our typical way of dialoguing on topics,” he said. “The people who did this a few years ago, they found it an intriguing way of dialoguing on topics that respected everybody, no matter where they were coming from. Everybody has equal footing. 

“It’s not about debating or persuading,” he explained. “It’s about everybody having time to share their input and for everyone else to listen — and to not push back, but to try to understand where that person is coming from. Everybody’s experience of church is different and just because I didn’t have your experience, doesn’t invalidate that experience.”

All are welcome to attend the sessions, which are set for:

Feb. 27 — 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. at the Archdiocese of Louisville Pastoral Center (Room 1), 3940 Poplar Level Road.

March 7 — 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. in the parish hall of the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral, 310 W. Stephen Foster Ave., in Bardstown, Ky.

March 13 — 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. at St. Margaret Mary Church (Door #5, Hospitality Room), 7813 Shelbyville Road.

The archdiocese is expected to share a three- to five-page report from the sessions at the national level by April 8. The U.S. bishops are expected to submit a synthesis report to the Vatican’s synod secretary by May 15.For previous reports from the Synod on Synodality, including the archdiocese’s 2022 synthesis report, visit archlou.org/synod/.

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Marnie McAllister
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