SYNOD 2023: Shaping the Church of the Future
By Annemarie Paulin-Campbell
A highly significant event is taking place in the Catholic Church. It has the potential to reshape the Church, and sadly almost no one seems to know about it.
Pope Francis has called a Synod on “Communion, Participation and Mission” – probably the most extensive worldwide consultation process ever – to advise him. Its focus is on the process of how we, women and men, religious, laity and ordained, can journey together listening for the invitation of the Holy Spirit. It particularly seeks to invite the voices and experiences of those who may feel marginalised in the Church – for example, the LGBTQI+ community, women, migrants and refugees and those who have experienced sexual abuse and so on. This means all who are part of the Church – as well as those who feel alienated from it – are invited to journey together into a process of listening and dialogue.
We are asked not to come with an agenda but rather to come and honestly share our experience and respectfully listen to others share theirs. This is the beginning of discernment: to sift and pray through our lived experiences and to be changed as we listen to the experiences of others. As baptised Christians, the Holy Spirit is at work in each of us. We bring a different and equally important experience to those who are ordained.
Pope Francis is opening up an opportunity for us to share our experience of the Church – our joys, sadness, frustrations and sense of what may need to change. Maybe the Church is home for you. Perhaps you have concerns about the role of women. It could be that you don’t feel welcomed as an LGBTQI+ person, or possibly you have concerns about young people you know who no longer feel the Church is relevant to them. Whatever your experience, we want to make space for it to be heard.
We are in the Diocesan listening phase, which runs from October 2021 to April 2022. This will be followed by a continental phase (Sept 2022-March 2023) and a final universal church phase in Rome in October 2023. Right now, in every parish, there should be groups of people coming together to meet and listen to each other. These conversations should be written up, summarised and submitted by the end of March to become part of the insights that emerge from the Diocese.
Ask your priest or parish council what they may have planned. If they are not taking up this invitation, there is nothing to stop you from getting groups together yourself and submitting a summary of your conversation to the Diocesan office.
This is a Kairos moment in the Church. Many are understandably sceptical about whether their voices will indeed be heard as far as Rome – but I believe we have to seize this opportunity and trust the Holy Spirit with the outcome. We can shape the Church we want in the future together.