Local theology professor named to Vatican commission assisting Synod of Bishops

By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service

St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary associate professor Kristin Colberg has been named to the theological commission charged with assisting the leaders of the Synod of Bishops’ general secretariat in reviewing documents, drafting resources and developing best practices.

Colberg, who holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, Master of Divinity from Yale University Divinity School and a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame, has been teaching at St. John’s in Collegeville since 2012.

“It is a huge honor to be asked to participate in this important work,” Colberg said.

“It’s exciting to work with people from all the world 0ver who care about the Church,” she said. “Pope Francis is really trying to create a listening Church. This synod, first and foremost, is about listening and trying to discern where the Spirit is leading us at this moment in time. I’m excited to be part of something so important, so diverse and so catholic in the sense of the Universal Church.”

Colberg teaches classes in systematic theology, ecclesiology, theological anthropology and theological method which examine fundamental issues in theology. She also has worked extensively with the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, striving toward Christian unity through ecumenical dialogues, which she believes ultimately led to her appointment to the synod commission.

“Synodality means to ‘journey together.’ This is an exciting chance for the Church to journey together to listen to the Holy Spirit and to each other, and think about how the Church can be more fully herself as we move into the future,” she said.

According to the synod website, the theological commission and the methodology commission will include religious and lay experts from around the world.

The theme chosen by the pope for the next synod is: “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission.”

Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, told Vatican News in May that, although originally scheduled for 2022, the synod will take place in October 2023 to allow for broader consultation at the diocesan, national and regional levels.

In revisions to the synod process announced in May, Pope Francis has asked that it begin with consultations with laypeople on the diocesan level before the discussion and discernment moved to a national level and then the 2023 synod assembly itself.

In an editorial published in the Spanish Catholic magazine Revista Ecclesia in May, Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of Synod of Bishops, said four commissions will be created “to help the general secretariat: communications, methodology, spirituality and theology. They will all have an international character and integrating different cultures.”

The theological commission, led by Bishop Marín, is comprised of 25 experts in theology, philosophy and canon law from around the world, including the United States, Italy, Spain, Burkina Faso, Syria, Tanzania and Mexico.

The commission will “review texts and documents and possibly make suggestions; present theological proposals for the development of synodality; produce and share materials for theological study; and collaborate closely with other commissions.”

The methodology commission, which is comprised of nine members, will be led by Xaviere Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of synod of bishops, and is charged with developing best practices and proposing processes at the local, national, and international level.

Those processes include proposals for the drafting of the handbook, or vademecum, for bishops, gathering and analyzing summaries, the drafting of the “instrumentum laboris,” or working document, and the final document, the synod’s website stated.

“People should see the synod as something exciting,” Colberg said. “Synodality can sound institutional but it’s really about journeying together and listening to each other. All the dioceses can work together for the world by listening to each other.”

The list of members of the synod’s communications and spirituality commissions are expected to be published later.

In addition to Colberg, members of the commissions from the United States and Canada include: Congregation of Jesus Sister Gill Goulding, professor of systematic theology at Regis College in Toronto, Canada; Canadian Father Gilles Routhier, professor of theology at Laval University in Quebec, Canada; and Jesuit Father David McCallum, Executive Director for Discerning Leadership Program at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, New York.

Colberg said her efforts with the synod commission are already underway.

“The work is started and it is a very diverse international group of theologians,” she said. “I anticipate there will be times when we come together to listen and other times where we are sent off to do our own work in smaller groups to reflect on the ways our expertise allows each of us to contribute. It is a wonderful surprise blessing. I take it as a joy and a responsibility.”

Kristi Anderson of The Central Minnesota Catholic contributed to this article.

Photo: CNS photo/courtesy Kristin Colberg.

Author: Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ news and information service.

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