Synods on our Minds — The First Theology on Tap Central and the Speak Up! Listening Sessions

The lived experience of church for many people is very local.

Most often, this consists of going to the nearby parish for Mass on Sunday and other holy days, and maybe the occasional trip to the confessional. Some also give their time to volunteer with parish groups. In living this localized experience, we may not always be totally aware what is going on in the wider, universal Church, in particular at the realm of the Pope, bishops and cardinals; nor are we always entirely cognizant of how their activities connect with our involvement the mystical Body of Christ.

At the first Theology on Tap for 2017-18 in downtown Toronto, U of T associate professor Dr. Michael Attridge helped illuminate the dynamic relationship between the local church and the Universal Church. In particular, Dr. Attridge talked about how synods bridge the local and the universal. In layman’s terms, a synod is a meeting in which the bishops advise Pope on certain topics.

For example, the next synod of bishops will take place in October 2018, on the topic of “Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment” – the theme chosen at the previous synod in 2014. The word synod actually comes from Greek words that are best expressed as meaning “journeying together”. This journeying is lived out through the Pope and bishops listening to people at the level of the local church & diocese, because “that is where people are found living their lives of faith and working to make the world a better place”. The core activity takes place not in Rome, but in our local communities.

Although like many who were there, I found Dr. Attridge’s talk informative, I did not really have a grasp on the whole idea of “journeying together” and what it meant in regards to a synod. This changed when I was a facilitator at a Speak Up! Live-Listening Session. During the small group discussion portion of our session, His Eminence, Thomas Cardinal Collins came and sat with our table for a few minutes. He was there not to direct the conversation or attract attention, he was just there to listen as we talked about how to be equipped to stand up for your faith in the workplace and wider world. At all these sessions, youth & young adults between the ages of 16-29 have shared with each other and the Toronto bishops their hopes, desires and even frustrations in an open dialogue. Ultimately, this feedback will contribute to the “instrumentum laboris”, or working document, which will guide the activity of the upcoming synod. While my mind knew this process, my experience of it helped me see one way the formal church hierarchy communicates with the men & women on the ground – and how earnest input, big and small made by ordinary people, can contribute to building the Church as a whole.

There is one more Speak Up! session coming up on November 1st @ St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Mississauga with Bishop Robert Boissonneau. If you have not been to a listening session and are able to make it, I would encourage you to attend! As Pope Francis has said, “the Church … wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities, and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism … my brother bishops and I want even more to work with you for your joy.”

The message is clear: the Church wants to hear from you, so speak up!

— By M.J. Santa Ana

M.J. began to fully embrace his faith after a life-changing experience at World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. An original member of the campus evangelization program at York University, he helped the Chaplaincy blog reach 11,000 people in 60 countries within the first six months of its launch. Recently, he had the great honour of participating in a national Forum on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment in support of the 2018 Synod of Bishops, which aired on Salt & Light Television. He is proud to volunteer with Faith Connections, where he feels that he can contribute to helping build a community of faith through enriching events.

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