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Synod parish sessions: ‘I wanted to hug everyone at the end’

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SAN DIEGO — “It was wonderful. I liked the topics that we had to share. At the end, I wanted to hug everyone in my group.”

That’s how one woman described her experience after participating in a small-group session on March 10 at Good Shepherd Parish as part of the Catholic Church’s worldwide consultation, called a synod.

In March, parishes hosted these sessions across the San Diego Diocese in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. And the diocese hosted sessions for priests, religious women and its administrative staff.

In April, the consultation shifts to two different fronts.

Parishes and Catholic schools will focus on engaging adolescents, a process that is to be completed by June 15. Parish synod coordinators, directors of catechetical ministry, and principals will be working together to create sessions for youngsters in grades five to 12.

In April, too, Church-related organizations will hold sessions for the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated and the homeless.

In the sessions already held, the parishioners got an unprecedented opportunity to meet fellow faithful and share candidly their joys and disappointments in the Church, and their hopes for it.

The insights gleaned will be shared with each parish’s pastor, Bishop Robert McElroy, the U.S. Catholic Church and the Vatican. It will be used to develop ways to strengthen the participation of the faithful at all levels of the Church.

By month’s end, parish synod coordinators had begun submitting their summaries of their sessions to the diocese — and praising the experience.

The session “was grace-filled and full of joy even as people shared very different viewpoints,” wrote Laura Martin-Spencer, who coordinated the consultation at The Immaculata Church. “The consensus was that people wanted even more opportunities like this to connect with each other on a deep level and to share their experiences about the Church they love.”

Cecilia Herrera coordinated the sessions in Calexico.

“(Participants) said they enjoyed the event and that we should do this more often, every three months or so,” she wrote after the session on March 22  at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

Eighteen-year-old Maricruz Mandiola and her mother participated in a session during the meeting of the Spanish-speaking pro-life group at Christ the King Parish in San Diego on March 15, along with other adolescents.

“I liked that it was with people who were younger,” she said afterward. “Hearing my fellow brothers and sisters, I did feel comfortable that we do share common concerns about the Church and common things that we can make better.”

She hopes more young people participate.

“Teenagers like to criticize a lot about the Church because they don’t know about it,” she said. “But I think if they share those criticisms about the Church, they can help improve it. They would also feel welcome and they could come.”

For more information on the consultation, visit sdcatholic.org/synod.

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