From the Editor: How to get involved in the local synod process

Last May, Pope Francis announced that the next Synod of Bishops would include a process of “listening to all of the baptized” in each diocese around the world. It is an opportunity for the People of God to “journey together” (which is what the word “synod” means) with the goal of growing together in communion, participation and mission, and discerning where the Holy Spirit is leading the Church at this time in history

By Joe Towalski

Our diocese formally began this journey with the rest of the worldwide Church last October at Diocesan Ministry Day (DMD), where attendees prayed together and participated in breakout discussions on synod topics. Several other local synod gatherings have been held since then, and more are being scheduled.

Bishop Donald Kettler is asking each of our diocese’s 29 Area Catholic Communities to host a synod consultation over the next few months. At these group gatherings, participants will share their views and learn from one another. Trained “listeners” will help to guide the discussions and record what they hear. The summaries will not identify anyone by name.

Even though we’re early in the process, we’re already learning a lot. At DMD, for example, attendees shared their hopes that the synod process would “stir up the gifts” of the people, help the Church to be a “school of hospitality” and foster a greater degree of unity among the faithful. Accomplishing this will be challenging, they said. It will require people to move beyond their comfort zones. We’ll need more bilingual opportunities and new approaches for doing effective ministry and other outreach.

Ways to be listened to

The Diocesan Synod Team, led by co-chairs David Fremo and Brenda Kresky, is organizing opportunities for people to listen to others as well as be listened to. As part of the process, they are intent on reaching people who are often on the peripheries: youth and young adults, the disaffected and disaffiliated, the homebound and our growing Latino Catholic community, to name just a few.

In addition to group consultations, people can participate in the local synod listening process in two other ways: one-to-one meetings, in which individuals are invited to sit down with a trained “listener” to share their thoughts and experiences; and an online survey for those prefer to share their views in this way. You can find information about all of these opportunities on the diocese’s special synod webpage:

Ways to be a listener

If you are interested in helping this important initiative by being a “listener,” training sessions are scheduled in both English and Spanish for those who want to be group listeners and/or one-on-one listeners. Upcoming training dates — both online and in-person — are listed at under “Training Opportunities to be a Synod Listener.”

Other synod resources

While you’re on the site, please consider watching the three Regional Ministry Gathering synod webinars that were recorded when they were held in January and February. They address the synod from global and local perspectives, including how our local information will be compiled and shared and what to expect as a participant in the consultation process. You’ll find the recordings — in English and with Spanish subtitles — on the synod page under “Regional Ministry Gatherings for the Synod.”

When the local process comes to an end this summer, the information gathered will be synthesized into a report and shared with the wider Church. What we learn locally will also help our parishes, Area Catholic Communities and diocese to plan for the future of community life and ministry. During this upcomimg “Listening Lent,” let’s pray for a successful synod process that will bring us closer together as the Body of Christ.

Joe Towalski is the editor and the director of communications for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

Author: Joe Towalski

Joe Towalski is the editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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