The synodal journey continues
These past five months of our synodal experience in the diocese have flown by. Beginning in early February, we initiated a synodal journey that is focused on developing the skills and practice of listening – clergy and laity listening to each other, folks from different parishes listening to their sisters and brothers in the faith, and everyone involved praying to and listening to the urgings of the Holy Spirit.
This was truly the work of the Spirit – based on the response we received, 96 percent of the participants said they were able to listen and share with each other. And 60 percent felt more hopeful about the Catholic Church in Buffalo, and an astounding 89 percent said that they were more likely to engage with the Church in the future.
As part of the synodal experience in the worldwide Church, we are in the process of submitting a report to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops will combine our report with those of all the other U.S. dioceses and submit their report to the general secretariat for the synod in Rome. Our diocesan report will be available on the diocesan website in early July.
Bishop Michael W. Fisher made it clear that he hoped that our synod efforts bore fruit well beyond this report. And so, we made a decision to divide our work into two phases. Phase 1 has focused on listening sessions directed to “distinct voices” – those with common perspectives or shared experiences or mutual interests. And an upcoming Phase 2 will reach out to the “Parish Families” in our renewing diocesan structure.
In Phase 1, we hosted a total of 35 listening sessions which gathered over 600 laity, and 150 priests, deacons and women religious. In addition to general listening sessions, we also included Distinct Voices Sessions for women, those committed to justice work, the LGBTQ community, the African American community, traditional Latin Mass Catholics, youth, the Hispanic community, young adults, refugees, persons with disabilities, those who have experienced the effects of divorce, priests, deacons and survivors of abuse.
We are so appreciative of the cooperation of so many pastors, pastoral associates, and other ministers who helped to arrange the listening sessions that were held. But none of this could have been accomplished without the incredible dedication and flexibility of the more than 30 facilitators who underwent training, ran the sessions, and captured the concerns and hopes of all who participated. They truly made our synodal journey so far, a blessing for the diocese.
Watch for more information in the coming months for the continuation of this journey.