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‘A synodal Church is a Church that walks together’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

October 13, 2021

Back on Valentine’s Day in 2013, the Diocese of Ogdensburg set out on a quest for clarity of mission. Given my desire for closer dialogue with the faithful, I established an Envisioning Team to help me assess our needs and priorities as a diocese. You recall that several Listening Sessions were held throughout the North Country. This gave me an opportunity to personally hear from a broad cross-section of folks and learn of our parishioners’ experiences and concerns.

In my Pastoral Letter, “Find Your Home in Christ,” I indicated that our Envisioning Process has “energized us to recommit ourselves to Jesus Christ and to share our faith with our sisters and brothers. Through the priorities and goals that we established, the faithful became invested partners, building up, in a focused way, this Church we love.”

Pope Francis has convoked a Synod of Bishops that will run from October 2021 to October 2023 with the theme: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” This synod will begin locally in each diocese, then move to a continental phase, and finally conclude with an Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2023.

The diocesan phase will begin next Sunday, October 17, with the Synod’s Opening Mass held at 11 a.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg. Every diocese throughout the world will celebrate similar Opening Masses on this date. This Mass will be followed by Listening Sessions to be held in several locations throughout the diocese, not unlike our 2013 Listening Sessions held as part of the Envisioning process.

The Holy Father understands the synod as an institutional way to invite ongoing dialogue with all people, rooted in a spirituality of listening and discernment. It is best understood as a way of being the Church, offering the faithful a sense of shared responsibility for her mission. A synodal Church is a Church that walks together. Pope Francis sees the synod process as nothing other than the journeying together of God’s flock along the paths of history towards the encounter with Christ the Lord.

Once these Listening Sessions are concluded next spring, a summary of the fruits of the dialogue will be sent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops along with summaries from all the other dioceses in the nation. After further dialogue, a summary document from the Bishops of the United States will be forwarded to Rome in preparation for the Bishop’s Synod to be held there in 2023.

Through the process of this synod, Pope Francis hopes that there will be a greater appreciation for the laity being “co-responsible” for the Church’s wellbeing and action. The current Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, sees this as “a way of living that respects the vocations and charisms of all the baptized, while promoting the spirit of collegiality and communion.”

As our diocesan plans are finalized, I am grateful for your participation in our local process, beginning with the Opening Mass next Sunday as we seek to strengthen our communion as Church.

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