This past Sunday morning, Pope Francis initiated perhaps the most significant moment in the life of the Church since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s. He has called for the beginning of a two-year process of consulting all the baptized on the life of the Church. This initiative is called the Synodal Path: Communion – Participation – Mission. You can read his homily from that opening Mass here.
We will open the Synodal Process in the Archdiocese of Seattle with a Mass at St. James Cathedral this Sunday at 5:30. I invite all of you who can to attend!
To get you up to speed on this new initiative, I recently wrote the column below for our Northwest Catholic Magazine. Please join us in prayer as we prepare to walk together along this Synodal Path, which is the path of Jesus Christ, who is the Way!
Every now and then in the Church, we encounter words that are not a normal part of our language. Soon we will begin hearing much about one of those — synod, or more specifically, synodal process.
As you may have heard, Pope Francis has initiated a two-year process for the universal Church called “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” Sounds like the pastoral planning we have begun already in the Archdiocese of Seattle!
In Greek, syn means “together” and hodos means “path.” Thus, a synod is a call to journey together — to learn how to walk as one community, in the same direction, led by the Holy Spirit, responding to the important issues in the Church today.
In a world where we seem to be experiencing a crisis of community, this initiative by Pope Francis is prophetic. We are called to scrutinize the signs of the times, interpret them in the light of the Gospel, and discern which processes help us to live in greater communion, with full participation and hearts open to mission.
Think of Jesus walking with his disciples, surrounded by large crowds. Jesus spoke to them, listened to them, taught them, led them, always sensitive and responsive to the Holy Spirit. He taught his followers to live in the same way. This is how we are to live as Church today — walking together, with Jesus, moving where the Spirit leads, accomplishing the mission of Jesus, which is the mission of the Church.
Think of a moment when you were part of a group, and you experienced a great creativity, enthusiasm, or energy seemingly coming from outside the group, and yet it was a fruit of the collaborative effort of everyone present.
This is what we seek — not a parliamentary procedure where individuals or cliques press various agendas, but an encounter where all are sensitively working together, striving to listen, discern and respond to the needs and challenges of the moment. We listen and speak with the courage of the Holy Spirit.
I am grateful for the many good and effective consultative bodies and processes we already have in place. But in the next few months, we will strive to hear from every member of the Church, especially those who often feel unheard and invisible. This is a time for all voices to be heard: men, women, young people, laity, clergy and religious, those who are active in the Church and those who for whatever reason have fallen away. All the baptized are encouraged to participate.
I strongly encourage you to be looking for more information about how you can participate in this synodal process over the next few months. I also ask for your prayers, that we will grow in our own sense of communion and our ability to walk together, led by the Holy Spirit, to accomplish the mission of Jesus Christ.