After a month-long presence in Rome during the Synod on Communion, Participation, and Mission, we have returned to our homes with gratitude-filled hearts. We want to thank the synod delegates who journeyed to the Vatican from all parts of the globe, representing diverse cultures and languages while seeking greater communion for our Church in the third millennium. For weeks, they engaged in conversations in the Spirit about a myriad of hopes, concerns, and questions which Catholics and people of faith around the world have asked to be addressed.
One of the most valuable experiences of the synod process for our Discerning Deacons delegations — as we participated in the public activities of the synod and organized a symposium on a synodal diaconate — was being in community with Catholics from around the globe connecting over our shared beliefs and having honest conversations about our differences.
Now that the synod document, A Synodal Church in Mission Synthesis Report, has been published, we want to express our gratitude for how the report affirms the important role women have played in the Church for generations. In reflecting on women in the life and mission of the Church, the synthesis details the convergences reached by the synod delegates, additional matters for consideration, and seven proposals that include increasing women’s access to formation and ensuring that women can participate in decision-making processes and assume roles of responsibility in pastoral care and ministry. The need to do so is named as “urgent.”
As for the ongoing discernment about women and the diaconate, we thank synod delegates for their agreement to continue the conversation. More than two-thirds of synod voters supported addressing the possibility of women deacons, affirming what we knew to be true – this topic is not as divisive as people would have us believe.
Their proposal states: “Theological and pastoral research on the access of women to the diaconate should be continued, benefiting from consideration of the results of the commissions specially established by the Holy Father, and from the theological, historical and exegetical research already undertaken. If possible, the results of this research should be presented to the next Session of the Assembly.”
We thank the delegates for reaching agreement on this next step forward that centers on learning and reflecting on the breadth of scholarship that already exists about women and the diaconate while continuing to delve into new questions. We are optimistic for the continued discernment about restoring women to the ordained permanent diaconate and returning to traditions of the early Church. We look forward to continuing our collective discernment about how a renewed diaconate of men and women can reinvigorate our communities. We are hopeful that over the next year more members of our Catholic communities will have the opportunity to participate in discernment conversations about how the Church can better serve and accompany those in the pews and those in the margins.
My colleague, Anna Robertson, who led a delegation of young adults to Rome at the beginning of October also expresses her hope, saying, “The document’s affirmation of women’s co-responsibility and equal baptismal dignity and its acknowledgment of the significant and urgent challenges women face within the Church and in society, gives me hope in the future of the Church. I’m encouraged by my fellow young adults whom I traveled with to the opening of the synod — faith-filled and prophetic young women and men who believe in the promise of synodality to strengthen our communities, heal our divides, and revitalize us as a Church that goes out to the peripheries to live out the mission of Christ and to share the good news.”
We invite you to take a few minutes to watch this moving Tribute to the Women of the Synod produced by Future Church. We request your presence at any of the several Zoom gatherings coming up in November to reflect together on the synthesis report and discern what is ours to contribute in the coming year. We offer thoughtful commentary and analysis about this ground-breaking synod by Liturgy on the Margins, Chris Lamb, and Pilar Timpane. Lastly, in November we spotlight global efforts to end violence against women and girls, and if you’re an early riser, the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO), invites you to a screening and dialogue on the documentary “In-Visibles No More” on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 8 am ET at this link. I’ll grab my cup of tea and hope to see you there!