In October 2015, on the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis explained that “synodality” is an essential practice of the Church. The entire Church must walk together and listen to the Holy Spirit and to each member, since all the baptized have “an instinctive ability to discern the new ways that the Lord is revealing to the Church.”
On the question of women and the diaconate, the scholarship of experts in history and theology is important to the discernment process, but so are the experiences and reflections of missionary disciples who live close to the needs of the world and the Church and who are listening to the Holy Spirit.
It is the work of the entire People of God to study, pray, dialogue, and discern together about pastoral needs, missionary opportunities, and the gifts and charisms of every member of the Church today — and what new paths the Spirit is revealing to the Church.
We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas. The aim is not to reach agreement by means of a contest between opposing positions, but to journey together to seek God’s will, allowing differences to harmonize. Most important of all is the synodal spirit: to meet each other with respect and trust, to believe in our shared unity, and to receive the new thing that the Spirit wishes to reveal to us.”
In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul commends Phoebe to the church in Rome, introduces her as a deacon (diakonos) of the church at Cenchreae, and asks that they “receive her in the Lord” (Romans 16:1-2a).
Phoebe was a woman of great courage and deep love. She answered God’s call to minister to God’s people during the earliest days of the Church, when persecution against Christians was strong. She earned the trust of Paul, who depended on her to handle communications with the ecclesial community in Rome.
On September 3, the Catholic and Orthodox Churches celebrate the Feast of St. Phoebe.
On the Feast of St. Phoebe in 2020 a group of over 500 Catholics gathered to seek her intercession, to hear the witness of diaconal women and men, and to pray for the Church’s discernment about restoring women to the diaconate.
Pray with our celebration of St. Phoebe.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in you.
Discernment is the art of paying attention to the presence and call of the Holy Spirit.
We are Discerning Deacons because our Church is actively discerning the shape of diaconal ministry today, and deacons are called to be discerning of the people’s needs and the Church’s response.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a source of consolation for us. In it we recall the mercy and love of Jesus, revealed in his incarnation, passion and resurrection. We recognize the pain — the thorns of suffering and of lament — that so people many carry in their hearts. And we are animated and sustained by the flame, reminding us that Jesus is present when our hearts come alive.
We chose this image because we want to be grounded in Jesus as we shepherd this project.
We want to resist the temptations of ideology and polarization. We want to trust that by staying close to Jesus — and asking Jesus, each day, to stay near to us — our failings will be covered in his mercy, and the Holy Spirit will enliven our hearts to guide us along the way.
The deacon’s stole cuts across the heart. It is worn distinctly from a priest’s stole, just as the deacon’s vocation is distinct from priesthood. The deacon is to bridge the Church with the world.
In our image, the stole is white, the liturgical color worn on special feast days and throughout the Christmas and Easter Seasons.
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