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Students participating in synod sessions

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SAN DIEGO — Over the next several weeks, the San Diego Diocese will be analyzing the information the parishes submitted after they held their synod sessions in March. Meanwhile, the sessions for  young people continue through mid-June at parishes and schools.

Experts from two local universities are assisting the diocese’s synod team to summarize the findings submitted by the parishes in a report for Bishop Robert McElroy. He said he plans to share it with the faithful in the months to come.

The report also will be sent to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which will submit a report of its own to the Vatican summarizing all dioceses’ findings.

At schools and parishes, meanwhile, principals and faith-formation directors had a variety of age-appropriate formats available to them to engage their students in the synod process. Some opted to hold sessions using the listening-circle model used by the parishes, while others invited students to share their experiences in creative ways, such as through drawing or writing.

St. Charles School in South Bay held eight synod sessions for its students in fifth to eighth grades, from March 28 to April 4, said Sylvia Benning, the principal.

The school used the circle format, with 8 to 10 students per group. The week before the sessions, the teachers introduced the concept of the synod.

“They stressed how special it was that our pope wanted to hear from our students,” she said.

“I wish I could say that students shared freely but that wasn’t our experience,” she said.  “They were somewhat hesitant.  As soon as one student passed on a question, many others passed or said they felt the same as what another student had already shared.”

One of the questions in the session asks participants to share a time when they felt joy in the Church. The principal said that this was the easiest question for the youngsters.

“For most, it revolved around receiving sacraments.”

The most challenging question was when the students had to share a time when they felt disappointment in the Church.

“My honest opinion was these students were too young to offer many insights,” she concluded. “However, I feel introducing the synod process and reasons behind it was of great importance.”

The diocese, supported by Catholic social service organizations, also is holding sessions with the homeless, incarcerated and refugees.

There will be another opportunity for the diocese to listen to community members. The diocese will circulate a survey this summer, inviting everyone to participate, particularly those who did not attend the parish sessions and those not attending Mass regularly. The diocese will announce how the survey will be conducted in the weeks to come.

Follow the process of the synod on the web page sdcatholic.org/synod and sdcatholic.org/sinodo in Spanish, and through the diocese’s Facebook (@DioceseSanDiego) and Instagram (@SDCatholics) pages.

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