About the photo: Springfield Dominican Sisters organized, facilitated, and participated in synod listening sessions in 2022 while the world was still taking COVID-19 precautions.
To hold a “synod” means to walk together. I think this is truly the most wonderful experience we can have: to belong to a people walking, journeying through history together with their Lord who walks among us! We are not alone; we do not walk alone. We are part of the one flock of Christ that walks together.
Here are some podcasts produced after the October 2023 synod assembly.
Synod Persectives: Our very own Sisters Mila Diaz Solano and Barbara Blesse give their enthusiastic take on the month-long synod assembly in this episode of F.L.O.W.cast.
Inside the Vatican: A podcast from the Jesuit-owned America Media has several episodes related to the synod.
National Catholic Reporter's Francis Effect podcast interviews NCR reporter Chris White about his expereience covering the synod.
Here is a link to all of the meditations and homilies during the 3-day pre-synodal retreat. Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe provided six retreat sessions.
Here is the unofficial English translation of the final report of the synod assembly. An official version translated from the Italian is forthcoming.
If you are reading this, chances are you are not one of the 450 people appointed by Pope Francis to participate in the 16th General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops getting underway Sept. 30. But that doesn’t mean you can’t participate. Or, perhaps you already have. Did you join one of the in-person or virtual synod listening sessions hosted in 2022 by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, your parish, diocese, or other organization? Then your voice has been heard and should be reflected in one of the many 10-page reports submitted to Rome in 2022.
But there is more you can do! The very nature of synod—the word means “walking together”—is that a synod never truly ends. So while the church is nearing the end of the synodal process for this topic, you can expect there will be additional synods convened through the decades and that your input may be requested for those gatherings as well. This is truly the goal Pope Francis had in mind, when, in preparation for this synodal process he asked the International Theological Commission to prepare a document on the nature of synodality throughout the history of the Church. The result was Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church. Published in 2018, this document is worth reading, especially the section on synodality in scripture. Among its authors was Fr. Gerardo Timoner, OP, who is now the Master General of the Order of Preachers.
How to participate
“Without prayer there will be no synod,” Pope Francis said. He and the other participants are counting on the prayer of the universal church to support the work of the gathering. There are several ways you can join your prayer to the prayer of the people of God throughout the world.
- Watch the livestreamed opening ecumenical prayer service at 11:00 a.m. Central time, Saturday Sept. 30. It will be broadcast from the Vatican and link made available on the Vatican News Service website.
- Pray every day for the progress of the synod gathering. Here are some prayers corresponding to the Sunday liturgies, and here, some for weekdays. You will also find a selection of prayers at this synod webpage. Here is one sample:
Holy and Triune God, we thank you for calling us to be Your Church,
and for showing her newer and more relevant ways of being the Sign and Sacrament of God.
As the synodal journey which began two years ago finds its culmination in the Synodal Event in October 2023,
we pray for a more intense experience of Your Spirit for all the faithful.
We thank you for blessing the synodal preparatory work in communities, institutions and by individuals.
May the significant event of the Synod open new doors for the Church in her self-understanding and mission.
May the Synod remain open to grace, and approach all things with humility and courage.
Dispose it to hear “what the Spirit is saying to the Church“ (Rev 3:22) and where the Spirit is blowing it to action. Amen.
- Reflect on scripture related to the themes of the synod. This selection is provided by the synod office.
Even if all you do is read the table of contents of the synod working document, you will learn something about the kinds of questions being discussed in Rome and might find something there you’d like to discuss with family, friends, or your Scripture study partners or prayer group. Here’s a sample:
How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?
How can a synodal Church make credible the promise that “love and truth will meet” (Ps 85:11)?
How can the Church of our time better fulfil its mission through greater recognition and promotion of the baptismal dignity of women?
How do you define Church? Depending on your age, your answers might vary. But the infographic linked on this page in English and in Spanish—coming from the Vatican as it does—is an incredibly helpful and hopeful understanding of church.
A Green Synod
Pope Francis is committed to creating a listening church—and he is committed to combating climate change. For that reason, the carbon footprint of the gathering in Rome—think the fuel expended for transportation, food production, and electricity—will be offset by donations of fuel-efficient cook stoves and water purification devices to families and organizations in Nigeria and Kenya.
This gathering—while called an “ordinary” assembly—is anything but ordinary. It is the culmination of what has been called the largest consultative process ever undertaken in human history. Every baptized Catholic in the world was invited to share with Pope Francis their experience of being church—its joys and challenges. The use of the synodal model was adopted at the Second Vatican Council and in the intervening decades have been gatherings of cardinals and bishops almost exclusively.
Pope Francis has changed that. He has convened three previous synods—one on the family, one on young people, and one on the Amazon region. All of them welcomed visitors and listeners, lay women and men, including members of religious orders. This synod is notable because there are around 70 invited guests—54 or them women—who will, for the first time in the history of the church be voting members of the synod.
It’s a big deal. For this reason, you are encouraged to talk about the synod with your friends and neighbors. Even casual references (“This morning when I was praying for the synod I thought about…”) raise awareness pique others’ interest. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have by talking about the synod casually.