SAN DIEGO — Last year in the diocese, around 11,000 people participated in small-group sessions in parishes and schools and more than 27,000 responded to a survey. Those voices overwhelmingly expressed joy in the sacramental life of the Church. How can we build on that joy? And how do we invite more people to experience it?
The diocese will explore these questions in the next step in the synod. In the fall, parishes and schools will host another round of small-group dialogue sessions, this time focused on how they can more effectively build Eucharistic communities.
Cardinal Robert W. McElroy has incorporated elements of the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, organized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in this synodal process.
The dialogue sessions will be held from Oct. 1 to 31 and will follow a similar format as ones held last spring in parishes and schools. In those sessions, participants sat in small circles and shared their experiences while the others listened. Afterward, many said they enjoyed the experience and hoped their parish held more such sessions.
At Good Shepherd Parish, that enthusiasm led to a three-hour retreat last October for members of all ministries at the church, including those from its cultural communities that primarily speak other languages. The idea was to give them an opportunity to meet each other in small groups and listen to each other’s experiences and challenges.
“Our goal was unity among all the ministers,” said Manny Adriano, the parish’s coordinator of the English-language lectors, who was tapped to organize the retreat. “We also wanted to raise awareness of why we had been called to serve.”
He initially planned for 100 people to attend. On event day, nearly 300 turned out, including one group he hoped would participate, young adults.
“They were so engaged, so vocal,” he said. “They shared their stories. And they were very appreciative that people listened.”
When the event ended, “people said, ‘Let’s do it again!’”
At its core, the synod is a four-year conversation at all levels of the Catholic Church about how to be more welcoming to all. To do that, parishes, dioceses and the Church itself seek to develop a culture that consistently listens to all community members, learns from their experiences, and works to meet their needs.
The goal of the synod is to renew and re-energize the Church through this process, especially as its leadership tackles today’s challenging issues.
In the San Diego Diocese, Cardinal McElroy has organized the synod in three phases. During the listening phase, from October 2021 to October 2022, the diocese held small-group sessions at parishes and schools and conducted an electronic survey.
A discernment phase followed, from October to December 2022, where synod commission members reviewed the findings from the group sessions and survey. These findings were shared with pastors and the community at large.
The diocese began the action phase in January, asking pastors to address two concerns expressed by their parishioners in the listening phase.
The synodal process, however, is a continual one of working to welcome all, to listen to all voices and to collaborate to build the Church.