Local phase of global synod begins in dioceses around the world


PROVIDENCE — On Sunday, in dioceses all around the world, the local phase of the 2023 Synod of Bishops opened.
Pope Francis invoked the synod, officially titled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission,” but known colloquially as the Synod on Synodality, to discuss ways to broaden participation in the Church.
“Basically, it means the Church walking together and praying together and discerning together. It’s trying to discern and understand God’s will for the Church as we move into the future,” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin told the congregation in his homily at the 10 a.m. opening Mass for the local phase of the synod.
“I like to think of it almost as the whole Church, the universal Church, being on retreat together, spending a time of prayer and reflection trying to grow closer to the Lord and understand what his will is for the Church in our time and history.”
Each diocese around the world has been tasked with assembling a committee of priests, religious and lay people to begin by reviewing preparatory documents and questions for contemplation supplied by the Vatican. Then, they will take the next few months to discern answers to these questions about how to better listen to and respond to the needs of the faithful in encouraging greater participation in the life of the Church.
By April, the committee, which is being led by Edward Trendowski, Ph.D., director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, and Assistant Director Michelle Donovan, will produce a 10-page document of their suggestions and submit it to Bishop Tobin for his review.
Such local documents from dioceses will then advance to the national and continental phases of the synodal process, which will culminate with the meeting of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in 2023.
“Today, every diocese in the whole world has been asked to begin this preparation for the synod in two years and certainly we in the Diocese of Providence want to participate in this as well,” Bishop Tobin said, noting how this process of consultation dovetailed very nicely with the diocese’s current celebration of its 150th anniversary.
“In this time of anniversary we are coming together to thank God for all the gifts and blessings that he’s given to the Church for 150 years. Now we embrace the future with great confidence and hope and trust as we move forward as the Lord leads us.”
One of the committee members, Miguel Romero, Th.D., a Salve Regina University theology professor, attended the Mass along with his wife Heather Romero, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist, and their children Ana Lucia, 15; Maria Iliana, 12; Oscar, 10; and Simon, 7.
“It’s an honor to be asked to think with the diocese about the questions being put before us and there’s definitely work to be done, not only amongst ourselves on the committee, but among the full diocese,” said Romero, who is eager to bring his experience as a member of the board of directors of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability to the discussion table.
“Part of our mission as an organization is to support the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ teachings about the role of disabled persons in the life of the church, but especially towards their full and meaningful participation. That’s one of the things I’m most excited about.”
Romero said is also looking forward to exploring the ways Latinos and Hispanics participate in the local Church as part of its broad tapestry.
“The Church is very big,” he said, “so it’s important to understand and think about what it means for Latinos to be part of the Church.”
“This process of conversation about what’s unfolding, as I see it, is just a beautiful opportunity for us to be able to come together and talk and reason together, following the lead of the bishops, and I think that matters.”
Trendowski said that a main goal of the synodal process is to discern as a diocese how we are journeying together. The synod committee will consider a variety of opportunities and methods for reaching all Catholics, those active in their parishes as well as those who are inactive.
He noted that he is very much looking forward to having local individuals serve as part of the global synodal process and adding their voices to the worldwide discussion.
“Just imagine that there are Catholics today in faraway countries and continents, coming together in prayer, to begin the synodal process in their respective diocesan churches,” Trendowski said.