Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
At the end of November, we will enter the season of Advent — a time of waiting and preparing for the coming of Christ at Christmas and at the end of time. Right now, we also have entered another season of preparation, one in which we are joining with all the People of God around the world. We are preparing for a journey that will deepen our communion with each other, encourage us to listen and learn from one another, and help us to better live out our mission as baptized members of the Church.
I am speaking about the local preparation process for the 2023 World Synod of Bishops. In many ways, this will be a synod on “synodality,” a process that involves listening to all the baptized to assist the Church in discerning where the Holy Spirit is leading it.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis asked for this listening to happen in every local diocese as a first step. This phase of the synod preparation process was launched in October with special Masses. Now our Diocese Synod Team, under the direction of David Fremo in the office of Catholic Education Ministries, is beginning the work of outreach and consultations. This local process will end in August 2022 and the findings will be compiled into a document to share with the rest of the Church. I ask you to support these efforts. How can you do that right now?
- PRAY: Please pray for the success of the synod process and that it will bear fruit in renewing and revitalizing our Church at all levels. In every age, the Church and our faith face challenges. Secularism, consumerism and extreme individualism too often pose threats to human dignity and the common good. Divisions in our world and our Church have made it difficult to truly listen and respect others — particularly those on the peripheries. Pray that the local synod process will be successful in reaching the poor, the immigrant, the disaffiliated and others who are on the margins of our society and our parishes. Pray that we can listen to them, learn from them and include them on our journey of faith.
- PARTICIPATE: The goal of the local synod process is to include as many people as possible. As a child of God, your thoughts, viewpoints and experiences matter. When opportunities arise, please share them with truth, charity and courage. Watch for more information about how you can participate in the local process.
- PRACTICE YOUR LISTENING SKILLS: Many of us are not very good at listening. Or we selectively listen to what we desire to hear. Pope Francis has said that true listening involves one’s heart as much as their ears. It requires setting aside judgments, prejudices and stereotypes. It seeks to understand another person’s story. It requires an attitude of welcome and humility. When we listen in this way, we broaden our understanding of our diverse Church and can better discern what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do in our lives, parishes and communities.
- BEGIN TO DISCERN: Listening and discernment complement each other. Pope Francis explains it this way in the synod’s preparatory handbook: “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.” It notes that communal listening, such as we are doing in this synod process, “helps to build flourishing and resilient communities for the mission of the Church today.”
Pray. Participate. Listen. Discern. What we learn from participating in this synod process will not only benefit the Universal Church, it will also contribute to the building of vibrant, evangelizing and mission-driven parishes and Area Catholic Communities in our diocese for many years to come.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of St. Cloud
Learn more about the synod at https://stcdio.org/synod-2021-2023.
Top photo: Participants at Diocesan Ministry Day gathered in small groups Oct. 23 at St. John’s University in Collegeville for the first consultations as part of the synod’s diocesan phase. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)