Parishes to host synod dialogues


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SAN DIEGO — In October, the San Diego Diocese will invite the entire community to participate in small-group dialogues at parishes and schools as part of the synod, which will be entering its third year that month.

The dialogues will follow the same format as the sessions held in the spring of 2022. As planned by Cardinal Robert W. McElroy, the dialogue sessions will provide another opportunity in the diocese for the faithful to encounter one another, this time focused on the Eucharist and how to build Eucharistic communities.

Encountering others and listening to one another are at the heart of the synod Pope Francis launched in October of 2021. He called on parishes to use the synodal process of inviting everyone to the table, particularly the vulnerable, then working together to address the concerns raised, all guided by the Holy Spirit. Over time, the pope hopes this new way of “being Church” will help renew parishes, schools and the Church itself.

Victor Carmona has a unique perspective on this synodal journey.

He’s a man of faith, having been born into a Catholic family and nurtured by parish and religious communities on both sides of the border.

He participated in the small-group sessions at his San Diego parish in the spring of 2022, in which participants candidly shared their joys, disappointments and hopes for the Church.

He’s a member of the commission of mostly lay leaders from San Diego and Imperial Valley that has been advising the diocese on the synodal process.

He participated in the Continental Phase of the synod, where representatives of faith communities across the U.S. and Canada shared the findings of their synods.

And he’s a nationally recognized theologian who teaches at the University of San Diego.

On a recent day, Carmona reflected on the synod’s impact on the diocese and beyond.

“A beautiful and challenging aspect of the synodal journey is that it reframes our thinking,” he said. “The synodal journey has encouraged us to focus on the process itself — on dialogue.”

From that perspective, one of the key accomplishments so far “has been a palpable openness to and desire for dialogue among fellow Catholics. This openness helps us discern the Spirit at work in rich and multiple ways among us all,” he said.

Being process- rather than results-oriented can be unsettling “because it calls for a vulnerability we are not used to experiencing when encountering others, even if they are from the same faith community.

“And yet, together, we have experienced an openness to the Spirit through that vulnerability. For that reason, I believe we are living through a formative moment for the Church here in San Diego and beyond.”

He said that the synodal journey  is “nurturing us … to be a Church that heals the polarization wounding many in our society.”

Synodal Journey

October 2021 — Pope Francis launches a worldwide consultation of the faithful called “Synod on Synodality,” with the themes of communion, participation and mission. He asks dioceses to launch their own synods, which Cardinal Robert W. McElroy did in the San Diego Diocese.

Spring 2022 — Diocese invites the faithful to share their joys, disappointments and hopes for the Church in small-group sessions held in English, Spanish and Vietnamese at parishes, schools and organizations serving vulnerable communities.

June 2022 — Diocese releases the findings from the 1,100 small-group sessions that were held. Parishes receive an individualized summary of what their community members had said. Cardinal McElroy asks pastors to address at least two of the concerns raised by their community.

Fall 2022 — Diocese conducts an electronic survey to hear from as many faithful as possible. Around 22,000 would go on to complete the survey.

Winter 2023 — Vatican holds Continental Phase of the synod. The diocese was part of the North American cluster made up of representatives from the U.S. and Canada.

February 2023 — Diocese releases a general report of the findings from the electronic survey. Pastors receive individualized reports with the findings of what their own parishioners said.

October 2023 — Diocese to hold small-group dialogues in parishes and schools, focusing on how to build Eucharistic communities. Meanwhile, the Vatican will convene the first part of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality in Rome. Pope Francis invited Cardinal McElroy to be a delegate at this synod, which will have its second session in October of 2024.

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