Contributing to our global Church as synod ambassadors

DD Rome delegation following A Symposium on a Synodal Diaconate on October 18, 2023.

What a blessed pilgrimage we are having here in Rome! It’s been an extraordinary, grace-filled week.

Discerning Deacons hosted a synodal discernment at the Lasallian Generalate with college students from Fordham University, the College of St. Benedict and the University of Notre Dame on Monday, October 16. A team of six of us, headed by Maureen O’Connell, gave these students an experience of a “Conversation in the Spirit,” the conversation style being used throughout the synod, as well as a deep dive into the synodal process. There was great energy in the room! The students were engaged and excited to be there, and they expressed a deep appreciation for the sharing and listening in the small groups.

Through the lens of their protagonism as young people in the Church, we invited them to share stories of their experience of church and what they hoped the Church would take action on in the year ahead. We also gave them time to reflect on how to express their hopes in 60 seconds to prepare them for opportunities to speak as they met with church officials while in Rome.

Two days later, on October 18, we got to listen to Pope Francis! Our group of pilgrims attended the Morning Angelus, the weekly papal audience at St. Peter’s Square. The Holy Father presented a catechesis on Luke 2, which was then interpreted into French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and Polish. The crowd received an apostolic blessing, as well. It was deeply moving to be with so many Catholics from around the globe in an atmosphere of celebration and prayer and to be so close to the Pope, who radiated joy, compassion, and warmth. Pope Francis invited us all to continue praying for peace.

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Shortly afterward, Discerning Deacons and the Women and Ministeriality Thematic Core Group of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon (CEAMA) hosted a “Symposium on a Synodal Diaconate” held at Aula of the Jesuit Curia near the Vatican. Sixty-five people attended the symposium, including synod assembly delegates, religious sisters and theologians in Rome, Fordham students and the DD team. Franciscan Catechist Sr. Laura Vicuña Pereira Manso from the Amazon region of Brazil and Mercy Sr. Elizabeth Young from rural Australia gave moving testimonies via Zoom about their diaconal ministries as they accompany communities at the peripheries. Italian theologian Dr. Serena Noceti reviewed some of the in-depth theological underpinnings from Vatican II that can contribute to the current discernment about ordaining women to the diaconate as we envision a prophetic, synodal, missionary Church for the third millennium. The reflections were followed by space for people to ask questions. Ellie Hidalgo moderated the symposium. Discerning Deacons pilgrims Sarah Pericich Lopez and Rosa Bonilla opened and closed us in prayer, while another pilgrim, Philomene Péan shared that she traveled all this way to Rome carrying with her the hopes of many women across the U.S. and around the globe that the Synod would give room to continue the discernment and the dialogue about including women in the order of deacons.

Looking back at the week, our experience of beginning and ending every day together with prayer bonded our group of pilgrims. In our free time, we have enjoyed great Italian food and gelato at one of the best gelato places in Rome, just a block away from the convent of sisters who have generously offered us their hospitality, the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We will never forget our time together here in Rome – learning how to deepen our experience of contributing to our global Church as synod ambassadors.

Thank you for the prayers and hopes you have shared with us and for us!

Jane Cavanaugh & Rhonda Miska

Jane Cavanaugh & Rhonda Miska


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“[I hope the Church ordains women to the diaconate] to bring a wider witness and expression of God’s life, love, and presence to the people of God. Women’s voices and leadership will heal, encourage and empower the lives of men, women, and children. It will call forth a new understanding of church vocation and enrich Catholic family life.”
Deedee Van Dyke
Catholic Chaplain, Joliet, IL
“The first Apostle was a woman, Mary Magdalena. She continues to remain a tower of strength for women in ministry today. If more women were ordained to the diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church, I believe we would have more meaningful and spiritually enriching homilies, and our liturgies would embrace and welcome all to the Eucharistic table.”
Sonja Grace
“If I was ordained as a deacon, it would not be a means to an end, but rather it would be a continual invitation to a deeper and broader journey with Christ. Deacons are asked to become outwardly more visible as hands in service to the Church. To respond to such a vocation would be a treasure, a deepening of my inner faith life enriched by the outward experiences of ministry and service. Both the inner and outer journey become a longing to seek and know the Christ we are called to serve.”   
Nina Laubach
Student, MDiv program at Princeton Theological Seminary

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