Bishop Stephen D. Parkes will open the Synodal Process in the Diocese of Savannah with a Mass on Sunday, October 17 at 10 a.m., Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist.
The first step of the Synodal Process is a listening phase in local Churches, which will be accomplished with the Reflect, Renew, Rejoice initiative already underway in our Diocese.
“Synod” is an ancient and venerable word in the Tradition of the Church, whose meaning draws on the deepest themes of Revelation. Composed of a preposition συν (with) and the noun όδός (path), it indicates the path along which the People of God walk together. Equally, it refers to the Lord Jesus, who presents Himself as “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14,6), and to the fact that Christians, His followers, were originally called “followers of the Way” (cf. Acts 9,2; 19,9.23; 22,4; 24,14.22).
In ecclesiastical Greek it expresses how the disciples of Jesus were called together as an assembly and in some cases it is a synonym for the ecclesial community…Since the first centuries, the word “synod” has been applied, with a specific meaning, to the ecclesial assemblies convoked on various levels (diocesan, provincial, regional, patriarchal or universal) to discern, by the light of the Word of God and listening to the Holy Spirit, the doctrinal, liturgical, canonical and pastoral questions that arise as time goes by.
First and foremost, synodality denotes the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the Church, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. Synodality ought to be expressed in the Church’s ordinary way of living and working.
In a more specific sense, which is determined from a theological and canonical point of view, synodality denotes those structures and ecclesial processes in which the synodal nature of the Church is expressed at an institutional level, but analogously on various levels: local, regional and universal. These structures and processes are officially at the service of the Church, which must discover the way to move forward by listening to the Holy Spirit.
Finally, synodality designates the programme of those synodal events in which the Church is called together by the competent authority in accordance with the specific procedures laid down by ecclesiastical discipline, involving the whole People of God in various ways on local, regional and universal levels, presided over by the Bishops in collegial communion with the Bishop of Rome, to discern the way forward and other particular questions, and to take particular decisions and directions with the aim of fulfilling its evangelising mission.
The mission of the Church requires the entire People of God to be on a journey together, with each member playing his or her crucial role, united with each other. A synodal Church walks forward in communion to pursue a common mission through the participation of each and every one of her members. The objective of this Synodal Process is not to provide a temporary or one-time experience of synodality, but rather to provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward on the path towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term.
In this light, the objective of the current Synod is to listen, as the entire People of God, to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church. We do so by listening together to the Word of God in Scripture and the living Tradition of the Church, and then by listening to one another, and especially to those at the margins, discerning the signs of the times. In fact, the whole Synodal Process aims at fostering a lived experience of discernment, participation, and co-responsibility, where a diversity of gifts is brought together for the Church’s mission in the world.
In this sense, it is clear that the purpose of this Synod is not to produce more documents. Rather, it is intended to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission (PD, 32). Thus the objective of this Synodal Process is not only a series of exercises that start and stop, but rather a journey of growing authentically towards the communion and mission that God calls the Church to live out in the third millennium.
This journey together will call on us to renew our mentalities and our ecclesial structures in order to live out God’s call for the Church amid the present signs of the times. Listening to the entire People of God will help the Church to make pastoral decisions that correspond as closely as possible to God’s will (ITC, Syn., 68) The ultimate perspective to orient this synodal path of the Church is to serve the dialogue of God with humanity (DV, 2) and to journey together the kingdom of God (cf. LG, 9; RM, 20). In the end, this Synodal Process seeks to move towards a Church that is more fruitfully at the service of the coming of the kingdom of heaven.
The first step of the Synodal Process is a listening phase in local Churches. Following an opening celebration in Rome on Saturday, October 9, 2021, the diocesan phase of the Synod will officially begin on Sunday, October 17, 2021.
Note: within the Diocese of Savannah, this phase will be accomplished with the Listening Sessions currently underway as part of the Reflect, Renew, Rejoice planning initiative.
Because this engagement of the People of God is foundational, and a first taste of the experience of synodality for many, it is essential that each local listening exercise be guided by the principles of communion, participation, and mission that inspire this synodal path. The unfolding of the Synodal Process at a local level must also involve: