SAN DIEGO — “It’s an opportunity to be heard.”
That’s how José Raul Martínez sees the consultation that begins at parishes in March, part of an effort to listen to Catholics worldwide.
The Diocese of San Diego will hold this consultation in small groups of people sitting in a circle sharing their experiences in the Church and their hopes for its future. The sessions will last about 2½ hours and will be held in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Everyone is invited to register at their parish as soon as possible to join this conversation, which also will include clergy, religious, young adults, and Catholic schools’ staff and parents.
Pope Francis called for this consultation, formally known as a synod, at a pivotal moment in the history of the Church. Societies are deeply divided, economic inequality is growing, and virtually everyone is struggling to regain their footing from a devastating pandemic.
As the COVID-19 virus eases, many faithful have not returned to Mass at their parishes, many of which were already struggling with declining attendance.
“The pope is asking us to come together and have a serious conversation about the future of our diocese and the Universal Church, open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and unburdened, as the Holy Father put it, by the idea that ‘we’ve always done it this way,’” Bishop Robert McElroy said at a special Mass Oct. 17 that opened the synod at the diocese.
“Even more to the point, he wants to bring this spirit of encounter and renewal into the daily life of the Church, to force all of us out of our comfort zones, and to initiate a journey down a path that fosters unity, mission and the revitalization of our Church.”
The diocese is holding the synod in three phases. The first one involves listening in the small-group sessions in March and April, which also will be held among individuals who live on the margins of society.
The insights and data collected from the sessions will be submitted in June to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which in turn will summarize it and submit it to the Vatican.
The San Diego Diocese is going further, however.
The diocese also will reach out to its faithful through a survey, to be conducted over the summer.
The second phase begins in the fall and stretches to early next year. Two commissions of lay Catholic community leaders are guiding the diocese’s consultation in San Diego and Imperial counties. Commission members, supported by consultants, will analyze the insights and the data from the small-group sessions and the survey.
They will discern ways that parishes and the diocese can journey more closely with all members in their community and welcome them to participate fully at all levels of the life of the Church.
The third and final phase calls for action, implementing the recommendations the commissions make, under the guidance of Bishop McElroy.
José Martinez, a parishioner of Sacred Heart Mission in the town of Heber, is a commission member from the Imperial Valley. He’s a middle school teacher and a leader in music and young adult ministries.
“If we pray for a better Church, then action must accompany the intention, and this is one step toward making it happen,” he said of the synod. If the pope “wants to learn about what is happening in the hearts of God’s people, now is the time to speak.”
Register at parish to participate
Catholic faithful in San Diego and Imperial counties can register at their parish to participate in small-group sessions to be held in March as part of a worldwide consultation. Online information is available at sdcatholic.org/synod (English) and sdcatholic.org/sinodo (Spanish).