We’re not so different: Diocesan Synod aligns with national synthesis
(Pope Francis has invited the worldwide Church to journey together in a synod to think about how the future Church needs to serve its people. This is the second of three articles taking a look at our own diocesan synod document, how it relates to documents around the country and around the world, and where we go next in our diocese with the movement to become a synodal Church)
If you’ve read the diocesan synod report (available here), you know that participants in the listening sessions expressed what was in their hearts about what it means to be Catholic, the concerns that they had about the future of the Church, but also the hopes they have for our faith communities. It’s hard to believe that it is now just over six months since we submitted our report to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Since then, the U.S. bishops have assembled a national synthesis (available here) of the 197 reports from around the country. Due to the size of our country, these contributions were gathered regionally, to produce 14 intermediate syntheses which aided in the development of this national synthesis.
It is telling – and, frankly, fascinating – to see that the concerns and the hopes that were expressed by the folks in our diocese align almost one-for-one with those of Catholics around the country. It is almost as if our diocesan report was used as a model, with different phrasing to be sure, in order to create the national synthesis.
Locally, we talked about the “shadows” of concern that still plague our diocese, and nationally these were referred to as “enduring wounds.” Most prominent, of course, is the continuing fallout from the abuse crisis; the pain and anguish that has been caused is “still unfolding” as the national report notes.
The polarization that we acknowledged in our Church was noted as a “divided” Church all across the country, on topics ranging from acceptance of Vatican II to some of the same political divide that drives us apart in our secular lives. The issues that create separation of people from the Church are identical across the country and acknowledged as “marginalization”: issues of the role of women in decision-making, the place of the LGBTQ community, the treatment of divorced Catholics and single parents, and the under-representation of diverse communities.
Where our diocesan report identified a confusion of “Catholic identity, meaning a lack of adult formation, including the absence of homilies that connect the Gospel to daily life and present the principles of Catholic Social Teaching,” nationally there was a call for a “more profound formation process,” including an emphasis on the “social mission of the Church.”
The lack of youth and young adults in our Church caused a “deep ache in the wake of the departure of young people” expressed all around the country – and not just because they are the future of the Church, but because they should be recognized for their importance now and given a significant voice in the present.
But of course, it was not all negative – there were significant positives: “Lights” and “Hopes “as we called them in our diocesan report, once again echoed nationally. The sacramental life of the Church provides a strong support for Catholics all across the country, creating a spirit of not just worship, but of community and friendship. Across the country Catholics value our priests and pastors, find inspiration in the saints, and look forward to the day when there is a real lay-clergy partnership in governance and decision-making in the Church.
It is comforting to recognize that we are not so different here in the Buffalo Diocese. We may have some separate challenges, but overall, we share the same hopes and anxieties as Catholics throughout the U.S. The call to synodality is exactly this – to listen to each other’s experience, and through that to hear the voice of the Spirit, calling us to journey together to build up the Church, and through that, to build the Kingdom in our midst.