Common themes within the Synod reports resonate with all of us and call us to hope.
A major theme that was frequently mentioned as integral to being a more welcoming Church revolved around removing barriers to accessibility and embracing those with special needs and their families, particularly as it relates to an individual’s sacramental life. Synodal consultations identified that more work is necessary to welcome diverse cultural and ethnic communities, those with gender differences and those divorced, whether remarried or not, in being companioned authentically.
As one region stated, “Rather than divide us, our diversity should be a source of strength.” Many acknowledged the ongoing “need for deeper cultural understanding, more diversity in parish life: in faith formation, liturgical celebration, and social experiences. Many local communities weighed how best to balance the diverse communities within a single Church that desires to build bridges and fellowship. “Catholic people of color spoke of routine encounters with racism, both inside and outside the Church.” Providing forums for conversations on race, immigration, and loving openness to others is critical in allowing individuals to be heard and understood.” Some expressed a hope for healing.
Nearly all synodal consultations expressed a deep ache in the wake of the departure of young people and viewed this as integrally connected to becoming a more welcoming Church. Young people desire not to be known as the future of the Church as much as they are the Church presently. “They want to be seen and heard and included more in Church life, especially by participating meaningfully in parish and diocesan councils and ministries.”
The Working Document on the Synod stated, “The Church is the bearer of a proclamation of fullness of life: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn10:10). The Church’s mission is to make Christ present in the midst of His People through reading the Word, the celebration of Sacraments and through all the actions that care for the wounded and suffering.
Our SSJ mission calls each of us to make this hope a reality in our midst today.