Typically in the church, synod refers to an assembly, usually of bishops. Pope Francis expands on that definition, envisioning synodality as the people of God “journeying together” in the synod’s preparatory document, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”
Pope Francis is calling on the faithful to take part in designated pathways in preparation for the 2023 synod — diocesan, regional/continental and universal.
At the diocesan level, the people of God — from the most active Catholics to those on the periphery — will be invited to answer the synod’s basic questions:
“A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together,’ ” the synod’s preparatory document says as it introduces the questions.
- “How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your particular church?”
- “What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’ ”
The Archdiocese of Louisville’s plans to listen and consult on these questions are still in development, said Vice Chancellor Tink Guthrie, who has been appointed the liaison between the archdiocese and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He will manage the local process.
He said the archdiocese will rely in part on feedback already collected through several consultative processes conducted in recent years — the 2018 parish discernment process, the V Encuentro process of the Hispanic and Latino communities and the African American pastoral plan of action.
But plans are also in development to gather additional perspectives and experiences from a variety of stakeholders in the archdiocese, Guthrie said.
The archdiocese hopes to hear from the lay faithful, including those in rural areas; clergy; vowed religious; lay associations and organizations; Catholic schools and universities and others in the church’s mainstream, he said.
Guthrie also aims to hear from those who are excluded or feel like they’re on the periphery — Catholics who have disabilities, who are impoverished, who are divorced, who identify as LGBTQ+. Those on the periphery, Guthrie noted, can also include women, singles, elderly men and women and non-practicing Catholics. The list goes on.
“The process is designed — at its best — to involve the widest audience possible,” said Guthrie. “We know we won’t get universal responses to this, but there will be a universal invitation. We want to hear all the voices.”
He said he’d like to ask those who feel excluded or hurt by the church, “Can you allow us in, share what caused your experience, let me journey with you?”
Guthrie noted that the process is about listening to and consulting the people of God with a focus on discernment and being open to the Holy Spirit.
“We don’t want to survey them; we want to draw them into dialogue,” he said. “It’s not about information and data, it’s about listening to experiences.”
Guthrie also noted that the process isn’t about solving problems at this stage.
While issues of import to a majority of participants won’t be ignored, Pope Francis has specifically asked dioceses not to exclude feedback simply because it was expressed by a minority of people. Guidelines for collecting feedback also caution dioceses not to limit
their reports to trends.
“We’re looking for new horizons, original points of view,” Guthrie said. “We’re also looking for blind spots.”
Ultimately, the archdiocese must synthesize its collected feedback into a 10-page report, due in April of 2022, for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The U.S. bishops will use this report and others collected from dioceses around the nation to begin their own process — the continental phase, said Guthrie.
He added that he’s hopeful the effects of the diocesan process will bear fruit locally — beyond the 10-page report.
“I’m hopeful there’s a deep residue locally,” he said. “It can help us as diocesan leaders. We can have learnings here that can have enduring impact, as well.”
As plans develop for the process in the archdiocese, they will be announced in The Record. Questions about the process may be directed to email@example.com.