Becoming a Church that listens and discerns together

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

The second phase of the global synod is underway and by October 18th we’ll have guidelines from the Vatican about the next leg of this journey – the continental phase! We can think of no better guide to help us glean learnings from the initial phase and to prepare ourselves for yet another year of listening, dialogue and discernment than Fr. Richard Lennan of Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry.

Richard is an ecclesiologist (a theologian who studies the Church) who participated in the synod process in his native Australia. Their process actually began four years ago with the launch of the country’s 5th Plenary Council (the last was in 1935!) around a now familiar theme across the global Church: how do we listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church? Since Australian Catholics are a bit further along the synodal path than we in the U.S., they have much to teach us about how to become a church that listens and discerns together. Richard offers a brief overview over Australia’s synodal journey in this video.

In July of this year, Australia’s Plenary Council Assembly, which incorporates lay and religious men and women as “consultative” voters along with Bishops as both consultative and “deliberative voters” yielded some exciting developments around two movements of the Spirit close to our own discerning hearts: the ordination of women to the diaconate (which received majority support in the consultative vote) and the transformational power of communal discernment when the final deliberative vote by Bishops did not reflect the discernment of consultative majority). This short news report offers an overview; Richard can fill us in on the details.

This webinar on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 7 pm ET will feature a conversation between Richard and me about how synodality is really a process of conversion and how we might approach the next phase of the synod as a practice of communal discernment, particularly in our polarized American U.S. Church. We’ll talk about how to walk together with people who think differently, especially about laments that could potentially further divide us and common hopes that could potentially serve to build bridges between us. Click here to register: “For a Synodal Church: Communal Discernment and the Australian Plenary Council.


Maureen O’Connell

Maureen O’Connell

Director of Synod and Higher Education Engagement

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“It is time for our Church to acknowledge the role of countless women serving the people of God in positions of ministry and leadership.”
“It is time for the Church to heed the Spirit’s voice, recognizing women’s call to the diaconate and allow the Spirit to restore and renew the Body of Christ so that it may fully live into its identity of missionary discipleship.”
M. Therese Lysaught, Ph.D., Theologian
Theologian, Doctor of Philosophy - Loyola University Chicago and the Pontifical Academy for Life (Chicago, IL/Madison, WI)
“I feel that the Catholic Church as it is structured is not what Jesus envisioned for his followers—so many of them were women of his day. What happened?”
Joan D. Martin
Ignatian Volunteer Corps Member, parishioner at New Roads Catholic Community in Belmont, MA

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