Up until a few years ago, many of us upon hearing the word Synod would perhaps remember hearing that word from, church history perhaps. Then in 2019, out of Rome from Pope Francis, out of our Archdiocese from Archbishop Hebda, we began hearing much about “Synod.” Synod listening sessions were held and plans made, only to be upended as most everything was, by COVID-19.
As most of us are aware, the next part of the Synod was held through six sessions, in most every parish community, in the fall of 2021.
So, what happened?
What did we learn?
And what are we going to do with that knowledge?
The Basilica surveyed participants halfway through the process and following the conclusion of the sessions. Additionally, we compiled the data from the session questionnaires for our Basilica community. Data from the session questionnaires will, at an unspecified date, be available from the Archdiocese as well, letting us understand the thoughts and experiences of other communities. Following is a condensed report of information from The Basilica’s experience.
Individuals: The participant group was a diverse group; ages ranged from 20’s to 80’s of married and single, mixed gender, newly Catholic to cradle Catholic. Some people thoroughly enjoyed the process, the videos, and prayers while others were so irritated, they opted out of the main video and recorded prayer portion after the second session.
It was reported that we very much value gathering in small groups to learn from, about and with each other. There is a need to learn to pray, in multiple ways, including with our children both in church and at home. Parents request age-appropriate resources for living our faith and integrating it into daily life. Social media should be expanded to allow virtual communities of people to connect beyond Sunday liturgy. The Basilica as a spiritual home is important.
Archdiocese: There was an overall disappointment for the participants with the topics and process selected by the Archdiocese for the Synod sessions. Of the topics addressed in the videos, the following three ranked highly: There should be an increase in ecumenical events. Retreats and events to gather the greater church should be planned.
Efforts should be made to ensure a true welcome, that is culturally sensitive and values diversity. Of more concern to the participants for our greater church and omitted from the list of topics were, the shortage of ordained ministers, systems of injustice in our institutional church that need to be addressed and the church’s involvement in racism and sexual abuse scandals.
Basilica Community: Highly valued: Radical hospitality as a sign of the visible presence of Christ. Highly encouraged: a commitment to participation in vigils and public demonstrations for justice, listening to and including young people in decision making, an increased empowerment of lay leadership, a significant effort to recruit BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) for positions of leadership, recognizing the importance of connecting Jesus’ teaching with actions of justice and works of service, creating small group ministry, and improving digital communication to appeal to younger age groups.
Also, important to continue to promote were, Liturgy, Service, and the Arts, continue keeping Mass, Reconciliation, and other liturgies available, continue making volunteer ministry a part of parish culture. Overall, there is a tremendous pride for the priorities and mission of The Basilica community.