Parishes hosting synod dialogues


CIRCLE: The diocese’s synod commissions and Pastoral Council gathered on Sept. 13 at the Pastoral Center to share their thoughts about what issues should be raised at the synod in Rome. Robert Ehnow lighted a candle to start a session. (Credit: Leonardo Enrique Fonseca)

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SAN DIEGO — “We should do this more often.”

That’s what many said after participating in small-group sessions at their parishes in the San Diego Diocese last year.

That’s precisely what the Catholic Church is asking all faithful to do, no matter their rank: Come together, listen to one another, and discern what God is “asking us to do at this moment,” as Cardinal Robert W. McElroy has said.

This process is at the heart of a synod that is occurring throughout October in the Diocese of San Diego and 6,000 miles away in Rome.

Locally, parishes and schools will be meeting again in small groups, this time focusing on the Eucharist. These dialogues once more will be held in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, and there will be special sessions at parishes and schools for youth.

The format will be the same as last year. Eight or so participants will sit around a circle, and take turns sharing their experiences, prompted by three questions, as the others listen. A notetaker will capture the key information, which will be summarized and submitted to the diocese. No one’s names will be recorded.

And just like last year, the diocese will analyze the information and share key findings with the community early next year. Pastors will receive a summary of what their community members said, as well.

Some pastors have begun to make changes at their parishes to respond to the concerns expressed by their community members in last year’s small-group sessions.

The Church’s goal is for parishes, schools, ministries and dioceses themselves to adopt this “synodal” process — infusing them with the energy of coming together — which over time will lead to their renewal.

Deacon Terry Hannify of St. Michael Parish in Poway recently reflected on last year’s small-group sessions. He said that the idea of having to gather a large number of parishioners together as everyone was emerging from the pandemic seemed daunting.

“But that’s exactly what we needed and at a time when we truly needed it the most,” he said.

“We witnessed the power of the synodal process, the bringing together of hundreds of people in small groups who ordinarily would not have done so.”

People from all walks came together to share their individual experiences, their frustrations and their hopes for the Church, he said.

“As a result, we saw connections and friendships that were being formed, or re-formed. All of which contributed to the reawakening of our Eucharistic parish life that we had been missing.”

Cardinal McElroy will be among the hundreds invited to participate in the synod being held in Rome from Oct. 4 to 29. They, too, will meet mostly in small groups to discuss the main synod themes: synodality, communion, mission and participation.

On Sept. 13, the cardinal gathered the members of the diocesan synod commissions from San Diego and the Imperial Valley and the Pastoral Council to hear from them what concerns they would like raised in Rome.

More information at

Your Voice Counts
Parishes invite everyone to participate in small-group dialogues they are hosting in October. The sessions, to be focused on the Eucharist, will be in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Please check with your parish for dates and times and register to participate.

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