New synod phase engages parishes, nations


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SAN DIEGO — The Catholic Church has entered the second of four years in a consultation known as the synod. This year, the synod both returns to where the consultation began — the parishes — and reaches across international borders.

In the San Diego Diocese, Cardinal Robert W. McElroy is asking pastors to take the information their parishioners shared at the small-group sessions they hosted last spring to identify an issue or two they can address early in the year at their parish. They are to use the “synodal” process, which calls for inviting as broad a range of people as possible to discern together the path forward, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

In the fall, the parishes are to host another round of small-group sessions to discern how they can grow as a Eucharistic community. These sessions will support the National Eucharistic Revival, initiated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last June, to promote a relationship with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and to nurture the communities of faith to become what they receive.

Meanwhile, the analysis continues of the data from an electronic survey the diocese conducted in September and October in the synod’s initial listening phase. Around 22,000 people completed the survey. The diocese’s synod team plans to release an executive summary of the survey results by February.

Two synod commissions will use the results of the listening phase to develop proposals to address the main issues that were raised. The cardinal, in turn, has said he will work to implement them, in consultation with pastors.

The synod is a universal undertaking. National bishops’ conferences have collected the findings of the consultations in their dioceses. Now, representatives of the dioceses are going to meet virtually in December and January in international gatherings to discuss the points raised in their national reports.

Cardinal McElroy tapped members of the diocese’s synod team to serve as delegates in these meetings: Marioly Galván and Robert Ehnow, PhD, the diocese’s chancellor and director of the Office for Life, Peace and Justice, respectively, who head the team; Father Michael Pham, vicar general; Victor Carmona, PhD; and Katrina Albrandt, a member of the San Diego synod commission.

They will be meeting with their counterparts from the United States and Canada, one of the clusters in the Continental Phase of the synod. These discussions will be brought together in the North American continental report that will be submitted to the Vatican by next March.

The bishops from across the world will then meet in two sessions in the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023 and 2024 to discuss the continental reports and prepare recommendations for the pope. He is expected to issue a teaching document, or apostolic exhortation, responding to the main issues the faithful raised sometime thereafter.

At the diocese, parishes are beginning to use the synodal process to tackle issues important to their communities. Sacred Heart Parish in Coronado held a Synod for Parents on Nov. 5, in response to concerns expressed by some parents about the problems they were facing in their family life, exacerbated by the pandemic.

“It was wonderful to hear the perspectives of other people,” said one of the participants, Shirley Gauvin, who attended the synod with her husband, Steven. “We have a lot of similarities but we’re all dealing with different challenges. To hear what other people are going through, and maybe share our own experiences, is very helpful. Everybody has something to offer and to learn. I’m so glad our parish organized this.”

Follow the synod process at all levels at sdcatholic.org/synod.

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