We have returned from an extraordinary pilgrimage to Rome, eager to share with you the hope of the synodal, listening and discerning process in which the Church is inviting us to walk forward together.
Our delegation from Discerning Deacons (Casey Stanton, Ellie Hidalgo, Lisa Amman) and the commission studying the diaconate of Núcleo Mujeres REPAM (Doris Vasconcelos, Ciria Mees, Mariángel Marcos) had an extraordinary opportunity to briefly meet Pope Francis at his Wednesday audience October 13. We gave the Holy Father the gift of Laura James’ image of St. Phoebe the deacon, and he received us warmly, eager to meet our group from Brazil, Bolivia, Canada and the U.S. We affirmed our support of his efforts to build a more listening, participatory, discerning, inclusive, synodal Church.
At the end he told our delegate Ciria of Bolivia “Firme adelante!” which we all received as a word of encouragement to go forward with God’s strength.
A few days earlier our delegation participated in the Mass to open the synodal path, celebrated by Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 10. Pope Francis said that Jesus “shows us that God is not found in neat and orderly places, distant from reality, but walks ever at our side. He meets us where we are, on the often rocky roads of life.”
Pope Francis is being bold and audacious in countering the polarization that has swept our world with dangerous consequences to people and to the planet. The only way forward is together, because to try to go into the future divided, polarized, angry at one another will not work. The synodal path invites us to believe that authentic dialogue can be generative and bear fruit. We are invited to seek out those whose opinions or lives are different than ours, to meet with those on the peripheries and the margins of our Church and society, and to “become experts in the art of encounter.” In the process we are called to trust that the Holy Spirit will show up to guide our way and teach us the paths to healing, restorative justice, active patience, as we discern what is it that God wants to say to us at this time, and in which direction does God want to lead us?
In this spirit of encounter, listening and discernment, while in Rome we met with officials at the International Union Superiors General (UISG), the Synod of Bishops, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Congregation for Divine Worship, Discerning Leadership and others to share the fruits of our listening this summer to more than 1,500 people about women and the diaconate as well as the Called to Contribute sociological study. The women of Núcleo Mujeres REPAM also shared a synthesis from two thematic forums that were held about the diaconate and about women and the diaconate in preparation for the upcoming Ecclesial Assembly for Latin America and the Caribbean. We ran into Jesuit friends and enjoyed the generous hospitality of the RSHM sisters where we stayed while in Rome.
The graces of this journey were made possible by the power of your prayers for our delegation before and during. Many thanks to those of you who participated in the Novena leading up to our pilgrimage or who remembered us in your personal prayers. We also prayed for and received the intercession of St. Phoebe for which we are grateful.
So what’s next?
Dioceses around the world initiated their local synodal journeys on Oct. 17th. We are invited to spend the next six months of our Catholic lives – October through April — intentionally seeking out those with whom we can engage in experiences of encounter, listening, and discernment.
Discerning Deacons is committed to contributing to this process through formational events. We invite you to join our first educational webinar about the synod on Thursday, November 4, 7-8:30 pm ET – “For a synodal Church. What is Pope Francis inviting us all to do?”
Here’s the link to register . Please spread the word and invite others. Interpretation into Spanish will be available.