Are We Synodal?

by Sean van Staden SJ


“A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together:” How is this “journeying together” happening today in your particular Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our “journeying together?””


These are the fundamental questions of the Synod on Synodality which Pope Francis launched in October 2021 and which will culminate in the meeting of the Synod in Rome in October 2023. They form the basis of a set of questions that the General Secretariat of the Synod (previously known as the Synod of Bishops) sent out to the whole Church as part of the preparatory phase of the Synod. The Church was invited to discern together the quality of our journeying together.


Earlier this year I participated in the Synodal process at my parish and university in Harare, Zimbabwe. I was struck by how almost every participant was so pleasantly surprised that the Church was actually, finally, listening to them.


I watched with awe as the process of sharing our experiences of Church while carefully listening to the experiences of others transformed communities. Groups that had gone dormant were revived, old practices were renewed and creative new ideas were given a platform to be launched. Groups that felt marginalised were given a voice for the first time.


What was your own experience of the first phase of the Synod? Was it transformative? Has your diocese published its report of its synodal process and have you read and reflected upon it?


My experience in Harare also taught me that true synodality can be very difficult. It demands that we listen to others with an open heart, no matter how much we disagree or are hurt by what they have to say. It demands that we share honestly what we believe even if we will be challenged for that faith. We have to let go of the desire to always be right, to always be able to convince others. We have to allow the experiences of others to enter into our own hearts. This cannot be done without a genuine willingness to befriend and peacefully co-exist with others.


Synodality must be rooted in contemplation. It is an active seeking for God in the sometimes, messy activity of the world. It is the conviction that the Holy Spirit is at play in our togetherness.


Synodality may not be easy, but we cannot be Church without it. The Synod on Synodality is an opportunity to take time to reflect on the quality of our journeying together and, hence, the quality of our Christian communities. Let us ask ourselves as individuals, communities, sodalities, youth groups, parishes, and dioceses: am I, are we, synodal?

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