At a Solemn Mass on Sunday, Oct.17, with prayer we kicked off the first phase of this synod, the diocesan phase that involves interviewing people to ascertain what they think of the Church. Prior to the Mass, those who will do the interviews received a training on how to conduct an interview.
The plan is that this synod will take place in three phases. During the first phase, the diocesan phase, interviews are to be conducted to listen to those who wish to be heard about the Church. The goal of this listening phase is to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church through those interviewed. The listening phase is not to answer questions you may have about the Church, nor to engage in arguments. As Pope Francis said when he opened the diocesan phase for the Diocese of Rome of which he is the Bishop, the listening is “to provide an opportunity to tell one’s story and speak freely.”
A synod is not something new for our Church. Its origins are found in the early Church. The modern popes – Saint Paul VI, Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis – have conducted 15 synods on a variety of topics. Pope Francis has presided over five synods. What is new and unique about this synod is that before the meeting of the bishops in Rome in October 2023 there will be extensive worldwide listening to what people, both in and out of the Church, have to say about the Church.
The synodal process is arranged to follow these phases. The diocesan phase, the listening sessions, will begin now and conclude in April 2022. A summary of what people in our Diocese have said during the interviews will be submitted to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), where it will be synthesized into a national summary of the listening sessions conducted in all the dioceses of the United States.
That summary from the Church in the United States will be included with summaries from the worldwide listening consultations. From that worldwide consultation the first draft of the working document, called the Instrumentum Laboris, will be prepared.