Invitation: A Way to Walk Together for a Synodal Church

For a synodal church: communion, participation, mission” is underway.
Convoked on October 10, 2021 and set to conclude October 2023 in Rome, we are right now in the midst of, perhaps, the largest consultation of people on the earth that has ever been carried out.

Throughout the world people are creatively responding to the invitation. Each week the good news spreads and hope is stirred as more voices participate to help the Catholic Church to hear again the cries of the people, the shared hopes, prayers, dreams, and longings.

It is a time where seeds are being scattered. Sequoia seeds. Ones that may take a generation to nurture and bear fruit. We in discerning deacons want to help tend the ground. So the seeds have a chance to germinate.
This is why we want to invite you to join us as part of a synodal animators cohort.

This cohort is about helping us do that work of becoming a people walking together, as a community of communities. As leaders, listeners, facilitators, organizers, conveners, note-takers, synthesizers. Wearing all our various hats (lector, campus minister, teacher, chaplain, activist, liturgist). We have this unique opportunity to come together in this cohort-virtual workshop space, to connect across our diocesan and institutional contexts, and to brainstorm, learn from one another, and deepen & widen our impact together.

PRACTICALLY  – what is this about?

Click here for a brief overview on the who, what, why and when of this cohort.

  1. There are a few key dates where we gather virtually.
    1. An opening retreat (choose Jan 26 or 30)
    2. Trainings on how to organize thematic forums, for those interested (choose Feb 23 or 27)
    3. A prayer service during Lent (March 27)
    4. A closing celebration (June 30)
  2. Optional peer groups. (meeting 2x a month)
  3. A shared workspace on Slack – to facilitate an ease of sharing information, facilitator guides, sample agendas, tips, upcoming trainings, lessons and reflections.
  4. A shared vehicle for reporting back and being a part of our collective Discerning Deacons consultation & synthesis. Your work can be a part of this consultation. A piece of history we co-create.
  5. Modest resources available to help with costs associated with conducting a consultation (for example: enlisting a professional facilitator, hiring an artist, paying for food or hospitality expenses)

This is both a practical space and a space for formation. For exploring: what is the holy call for YOU within this process? How are you being called to participate? To bring your voice, experience and wisdom and gifts to bear witness, and to inspire others.

Who might you help to find their voice in this process?

In addition to planting seeds, what is the fruit that is wanting to be harvested? To be brought forth as an offering?

If the diaconate in particular touches on your heart – how might you help to serve the Church’s discernment? Is there an emerging consensus revealed in our listening that the restoration of women to the diaconate is part of how we can become a more synodal church? Or is there deep division on this question such that it would only divide us further? How can we know if we do not engage in open encounters to explore this collectively?

Together we can imagine more ways to reach more people, especially those who Pope Francis, in his wisdom, recognizes as a privilege to encounter: those on the ecclesial peripheries and the margins of power. It is here that Jesus loves to hang out, and here that the Holy Spirit can speak a word back to the Church.

We know the going will have its challenges. That’s why we want to wrestle with the questions as we live them together:

  • How can we hold space together with people who are carrying deep wounds inflicted by the church? 
  • How can we hold space for lament and for people’s contributions, or recommendations?
  • How can we discern what is held in common? Where is the communion emerging, without rendering any voices or contributions invisible?

We trust in this short window from January to June 2022 that God’s grace will overflow. And if we find ourselves deepening and knitting together relationships and sparking possibilities — even across divisions and boundaries that often kept us apart — we will discover that the journeying together is itself a fruit.

With prayers for peace and joy,
The Discerning Deacons Project Team
Casey Stanton, Ellie Hidalgo & Lisa Amman

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“I have worked alongside many lay and religious women in my ministry who have exhibited outstanding ability for ministry.  Many have taught me by their example how to be a more effective minister, and by their instruction, helped me to grow in this role…It’s time that the Church gets in step with society and recognizes the equality of women in the workplace.  Women are as capable as men in the work of ministry, and have demonstrated the same equality in scholarship, skills and education as men.”
Fr. Joseph A. Genito, O.S.A
Pastor, St. Thomas of Villanova Parish, Philadelphia, PA
“If there were women deacons in my parish, lay women would relate in a deep and meaningful way to deacons who look, act, speak and feel more like themselves…Though I am an unlikely choice to wear the alb and stole, I have a deep commitment to service in Christ’s name and I try to live it every day. Any need that arises, I am ready to shoulder it, though some needs of our sisters and brothers would be well- or better-served by a woman’s different compassion.”
Deacon Bill Zapcic
Parish Deacon and Homilist, Retired Journalist, Tinton Falls, NJ
“Not only is ordaining women as deacons a restoration of the dynamism of the early Church, it is a matter of justice!”
Fr. Stephen P Newton, CSC
Executive Director, Association of US Catholic Priests, Notre Dame, IN

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