In his Sunday Angelus reflection on June 30, 2019, Pope Francis shared what has been a signature theme of his teaching: “The Church by her very nature is in motion; she does not stay sedentary and calm within her enclosure. … The Church is sent forth … to bring the Gospel through the streets and to reach the human and existential peripheries.”
Our Easter readings recalled how Jesus’ followers went forth to share the Good News, inviting all whom they met to encounter him. Their work did not stay in safe and calm places. They put their trust, and often their fate, in the hands of strangers as they bore witness to the work of God in the resurrected Christ. We know only a tiny fraction of what these first disciples experienced, both successes and challenges. They are saints, martyrs and pioneers. They exemplify for us the Church in motion.
In this synod we, too, are called to be the Church in motion, through listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit in our encounter of one another. It is the Spirit that united those first disciples, and as well that is active in this Synod to bring forth renewed communion, participation and mission. This is a time of action and engagement, of witnessing to what we have seen and heard in our own lives through the holy act of listening. We began these efforts locally last October at Diocesan Ministry Day, where the first of many listening opportunities took place.
Throughout our diocesan listening, people have shared their dreams, hopes and visions for the Church. They have reflected on Pope Francis’ invitation to share ways the Church can inspire trust, bind wounds, build relationships and learn from one another. Many people have found new courage and purpose in opening their ears and hearts to others. We have heard from people who are strongly connected with the Church as well as those who are distanced from faith communities. Like the first followers of Jesus, we are compelled to keep moving, and to continue what has been started in this synodal journey.
Many have participated, but the invitation calls for more. The Church asks you to share your voice through listening opportunities that are being offered.
The diocese’s Synod 2021-2023 webpage (www.stcdio.org/synod-2021-2023) includes ways for you to participate. You can learn more about the Synod, see what others have shared, and when you are ready, take part in a consultation.
The simplest way to offer your voice is with the “self-guided consultation” — an online option that asks for your reflections in response to the words of Pope Francis about the purpose of the synod. Even if you have already attended a group listening opportunity, or met with a one-on-one listener, you are invited to offer more. For your convenience, you can access the self-guided consultation for individuals with the QR code with this article or from the synod webpage.
Pope Francis has called for all of us to extend our listening to those who are not connected with a faith community. This includes those who have strained relationships with the Church, those who have stopped practicing the faith or have left altogether. It especially includes those on the peripheries — those who are often excluded, forgotten, marginalized or suffering from discrimination.
The synodal process asks all of us to be the hands and feet of Christ in this path toward renewal and unity of the human family. If you know people who are on the periphery, invite them to join in a synodal listening opportunity. Let them know the Church needs their voice. The self-guided online consultation is a great place to start.
May we continue our Easter celebration by being a Church of motion in central Minnesota.
David Fremo is director of the office of Catholic Education Ministries and coordinator of the local synod consultation process in the Diocese of St. Cloud.