Transforming and transformed on the synodal path in Rome

In 2021, a little over a year before my own path would bring me to Discerning Deacons, members of Discerning Deacons’ staff found themselves shaking hands with Pope Francis while in Rome for the Opening Mass of the Synod on Communion, Participation and Mission. They gave the Holy Father the gift of Laura James’ image of St. Phoebe the deacon and told him of their commitment to support the flourishing of a synodal church through the practice of diakonia. His response? “¡Firme, adelante!” Onward!

I’ve thought back often on this moment as it’s been related to me over the past week while journeying with a delegation of 15 other young adults to celebrate, accompany, and bear witness to the start of the Sixteenth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Ordained or otherwise, all Christians are called to practice diakonia, or a way of living out service to others and of being a bridge between center and peripheries. Our presence this week has been one of diakonia. We journeyed to Rome to serve the synod and to offer a ministry of prayer and presence to its delegates. We arrived carrying our own communities’ stories, and now, as our pilgrimage draws to a close, we return carrying the hopes of the people we encountered on the ground here, giving their whole hearts to the synodal process.

In case you didn’t follow along with our journey on Instagram or Facebook, you can watch the update video a few of our pilgrims made to share at this past Tuesday’s Synodal Rosary, or read up on some pilgrimage highlights below:

  • On Friday and Saturday, we attended Together 2023, an ecumenical gathering for young adults that included synodal conversations with other young people from around the world; workshops with synod delegates and other experts at churches throughout Rome; and praise and worship in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. It culminated with a procession to St. Peter’s Square, where we gathered with Pope Francis and faith leaders from across Christian denominations in Taizé prayer for the synod.

  • On Sunday and Monday, we explored Rome! Many of us visited the Vatican Museums and the Catacombs of Priscilla, and our group was over the moon to sit down with representatives from the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO) and learn about their work supporting the growth of synodality and amplifying women’s voices in the global church.

  • Tuesday, the eve of St. Francis’ feast day, we traveled by train to Assisi, where we recharged at holy sites like San Damiano, the site of St. Clare’s miracle of the blessing of the bread, and joined in some of the local celebrations honoring St. Francis. It was thrilling to be present in Rome the next day for the release of Laudate Deum, Pope Francis’ follow-up to the integral ecology encyclical Laudato Si’.

  • Wednesday marked the official start of the gathering of the Synod of Bishops! We attended the Opening Mass and had the opportunity to greet and pray with many synod delegates as they made their way around St. Peter’s Square later that day. (Read Pope Francis’ homily here!) We also celebrated the release of several news articles featuring two of our pilgrims, JoAnn Lopez (AP News) and Lupita Perez (All Things Considered), sharing the good news of synodality!

I know I’m not alone when I say that this has been a profound and transformative experience, and that we are returning to our communities with a new sense of the power of synodality. We hope you’ll join us on Friday, November 3 when we host Discerning Deacons’ monthly St. Phoebe Prayer for a Synodal Church.

For my own part, I’m looking forward to spending the next three weeks in Rome continuing to accompany the Synod. We’ll welcome another round of Discerning Deacons pilgrims soon and will continue to update you, our global community, through weekly updates in our newsletter and at our Rosary for a Synodal Church, as well as on Instagram or Facebook.

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“This was such a great learning experience for all of us, and even more so, a chance to build momentum and connection.”
St. Basil's Catholic Parish
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
“We are proud to stand on the shoulders of the many women who have ministered to the people of God throughout time!”
Holy Name of Jesus Parish
New Orleans, LA
“Learning about the history of women in the diaconate gave context to efforts to enable women’s participation in the diaconate today, and it was powerful to celebrate St. Phoebe and uplift the ministry of women in our own community.”
St. John Fisher Parish
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

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