Pope Francis is calling the Church throughout the world into a new way of being, calling us to become a “synodal” church. That word means, literally, “walking together” or “on the way together.” That phrase “on the way” is rich in layers of meaning: it refers not only to a road or path, but also recalls that the earliest disciples of Jesus called their faith “the Way,” and that Jesus himself in the Gospel calls himself “The Way.”
Pope Francis longs for a church that makes its way forward by means of all the members (not just the bishops and priests) walking and talking together. I can’t help but see in this his Jesuit and Ignatian roots: it is a vision of finding our way not by top-down directives, but by a spiritual “discernment” that involves everyone from the bottom up reflecting together on their experience and on how the Holy Spirit is moving in the church.
Many participatory discussions throughout the world have been distilled into preparatory documents for a synod gathering in Rome with Pope Francis this October (to be followed by a second gathering a year from now). This is the first time in church history that lay people will be involved as voting members of a synod.
Our parishioners had some synodal discussion sessions last spring (in collaboration with Gesu parish) that were fed into the preparatory documents. Now we have an extraordinary opportunity to engage in the synod in a way we could never have imagined! Our Director of Parish Life, Rebecca MacMaster, has been invited to travel to Rome as a young adult member of the “Discerning Deacons” delegation. “Discerning Deacons” is an organization of U.S. Catholics actively promoting discussion and discernment about the ordination of women as deacons. The Vatican invited them to send a delegation to the Roman synod because the Pope is very interested in discernment and dialog about this question.
Knowing that so many of our parishioners are supportive of a greater role for women in the church made it easy for me to decide that our parish will support Rebecca in this call to serve the wider church. Yes, there will be synodal discussions that Rebecca can spearhead here next fall. But more immediately, she needs to raise funds to support her delegation’s travel to Rome! For that purpose, there’s going to be a second collection on Sunday, August 28. Please be generous, especially if you have an interest in lifting up the voices of women in the church as part of the synodal process.