Good Steward — Guiding the Church through prayerful listening, dialogue

Daniel Conway

Earlier this summer, the Archdiocese of Louisville formally submitted its report on the synod listening process that was conducted here from February to May. “Journeying Together” has now been forwarded to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and is available at archlou.org.

The USCCB will formulate its own report based on input from dioceses across the country. This report, along with others from bishops’ conferences around the world, will then be sent to the Vatican as it prepares for the 2023 Synod of Bishops, where the topic of discussion will be how the faithful are called to contribute to the guiding of the life of the church through prayerful listening and dialogue (synodality).

Through this process, dioceses throughout the world have been given an opportunity to participate in guiding the Church as it journeys through the opportunities and challenges of this moment in history. The methods we have been invited to use — prayerful listening and respectful dialogue — in order to advise the bishops who will gather in Rome next year are as ancient as the church herself and yet they address contemporary challenges.

What do we need now to heal the wounds caused by the health crises, economic uncertainty and social unrest that have created so much havoc in our society and in our church? First, we need to listen to the Word of God, and to each other, prayerfully and in ways that are open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, we need to stop shouting and cursing at one another long enough to engage in respectful dialogue with one another — especially those we disagree with.

As Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre said in his cover letter for Journeying Together, “I am deeply grateful to all who participated, whether through group listening sessions or through our online portal, and to the parishes, schools, lay associations, diocesan agencies, and religious orders that facilitated these listening sessions.”

According to the Archbishop, more than 600 pages of feedback were received from this synod process, which had to be reflected in a 10-page synthesis report and submitted to the USCCB. “This synthesis reveals pain and challenges within our Church along with opportunities for healing and growth,” the archbishop said. “It also reflects the great enthusiasm with which participants entered into this process.”

Catholics in the archdiocese are urged to read the full report. It summarizes “what archdiocesan and parish leaders heard” from individuals and groups representing a cross-section of people who responded to questions originally developed by the Vatican for use in dioceses throughout the world.

Listening prayerfully is not something that we do easily, especially today, but it is absolutely necessary if we’re ever going to break the vicious cycle of resentment, anger and fear that dominates so much of what passes for discussion among us. Guiding the church effectively is possible only when all of us — clergy, religious and lay people — are willing to open our minds and hearts to what the Holy Spirit is saying in and through us, the people of God.

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to walk with us and to help us be open and respectful in our dealings with all our sisters and brothers on our spiritual journey.

Dan Conway is a member of Holy Trinity Church, serves as a member of The Record’s editorial board and is a writer, consultant and stewardship educator.

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