SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Catholics will again have the opportunity to provide input to the delegates at the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, also known as the Synod on Synodality, at their concluding meeting in October.
In 2022, parishes throughout the world held listening sessions to gather information from Catholics and non-Catholics about the nature and mission of the Church. The information was summarized and discussed in the first session of the synod, which was held Oct. 4-29, 2023 in Rome.
On Jan. 2 of this year, after a request from the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, Bishop Daniel E. Flores, coordinator of the U.S. bishops’ synod process, announced that listening sessions would be held in all dioceses in the United States to gather additional information.
At these listening sessions, which will be held in the parishes across Utah and in Utah Catholic Schools over the next several weeks, participants will be asked to consider two specific questions:
Question 1: Where have I seen or experienced successes – and distresses – within the Church’s structure(s)/organization/leadership/life that encourage or hinder the mission?
Question 2: How can the structures and organization of the Church help all the baptized to respond to the call to proclaim the Gospel and to live as a community of love and mercy in Christ?
“You can see that the delegates, in asking these questions, are interested in the input there for the structures and the organizations, and the life and the leadership, and how it’s encouraging or hindering the mission,” said Father John Evans, coordinator for the diocesan synod efforts. “So it’s looking at how is our interior life of the Church or infrastructure handling the mission that we’re called to in Christ?”
“The second [question] is related because it talks about the structures and organization of the Church and how it’s helpful to the baptized in their response,” he said. “So if one question is what’s encouraging or what’s hindering, the other one is, is it really helpful? And that’s what they’re looking for input.”
The deadline for submissions by the parishes is March 15. Bishop Oscar A. Solis is asking all of the parishes to participate despite the short timeline to complete the listening sessions.
“The process should be a lot easier [this time], because we’ve already done it once before with our listening sessions,” Fr. Evans said.
People who are unable to attend the listening session in their parish are encouraged to contact their pastor to provide their input; personal responses will not be accepted on the diocesan website. Parish/school responses will be accepted in either English or Spanish. Their responses will be uploaded to the diocesan website and will then be synthesized into a document that will be submitted to the USCCB by April 8, Fr. Evans said.
While some Catholics have wondered what actions the Church may take given this information that is being gathered from across the world, that may be the wrong way to look at this process, Fr. Evans said.
“The point of the journey of synodality is that we’d be present and be listening to each other,” he said. “We’re not listening to each other for an actionable item; we’re listening to gain understanding. And then we offer that understanding in our response in a consultative way, to the delegates. Synodality is about us listening to each other and journeying together faithfully toward God.”
He expressed appreciation for all those who have been and will be part of this process.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to everybody for practicing synodality,” he said. “The spirit of what we’re doing is listening to each other so that we understand each other better with where we agree and with where we disagree. There’s a real virtue of charity that can be brought to bear so that in the spirit we can be open to faithfulness in God and finding our way of helping each other in the journey.”
Contact your parish for information about their listening session.