PROVIDENCE — The Diocesan Synod committee has scheduled four regional gathering sessions across the state to encourage input from the faithful as part of the global effort called for by Pope Francis to create discussions in dioceses around broadening participation in the Church.
Pope Francis proclaimed “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission,” known colloquially as the “Synod on Sodality,” in October 2021 with a goal of asking every Catholic diocese in the world to encourage people to take part in the synod so that their voices may be heard on their experiences with the Church.
Part of the synodal effort involves gathering information through surveys centered on broad themes identified in the Vatican’s “Preparatory Document,” created to help guide dioceses through the process, as well as through “listening” or gathering sessions.
The Diocese of Providence’s 14-member Synod Committee has been meeting to discuss ways of engaging the faithful in the effort, which will lead to the creation of a summary document on local findings from the surveys and gathering sessions. This document will eventually be compiled with others in a final report that will be sent to the Vatican for review.
“The goal is to determine how we are journeying together in the Church’s mission of evangelization. I think that’s what the Holy Father is trying to do,” said Edward Trendowski, Ph.D., director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.
Trendowski said that four regional gathering sessions have been scheduled to solicit input from the faithful. All are welcome to attend any of the events.
The first of these gatherings will take place on Monday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. at St. Thomas More Church in Narragansett. The second will be held on Tuesday, March 8 at 7 p.m., at St. Aidan Church in Cumberland. The third session will take place on Monday, March 28 at 7 p.m. at St. Mary of the Bay Church in Warren, while the fourth has been scheduled for Monday, April 4 at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence.
The sessions will be moderated by Trendowski, along with Michelle Donovan, assistant director of the Office of Faith Formation. Both serve as the Synod Committee contacts for the diocese.
Trendowski said that so far, more than 800 people have responded online to the Diocese of Providence’s synod survey.
“The survey responses probably mirror the Church in general,” Trendowski said of the input received so far.
But he would like to remind those who have yet to take the survey or attend a gathering to offer their input that the goal of the synod is not about changing Church teachings on various subjects, but rather an opportunity to look forward and broaden participation in the faith.
“The goal is to discern how we are journeying together in the Church’s mission of evangelization — the synod is about evangelization,” Trendowski said. “How are we evangelizing? How are we working together as priests, religious and lay people? How are we working together for the Church’s mission of evangelization?”
He said that he fears people who have used the survey to advocate for changes in Church teaching on topics are making emotional assertions based off of the culture and not grounded in the Church’s two millennia of theology.
“That’s how we’ve operated as a church for 2,000 years and we’ve certainly faced trials in our history. The trials we face today are no less or greater I suppose,” Trendowski said.
While people are encouraged to respond to the surveys and in the gathering sessions in any way they choose, Trendowski encourages people to think about what we can all do to be better Catholics and more effective evangelizers and make that the focus of their synodal input.
For more information about the synod, the survey or the gathering sessions, visit discovercatholicfaith.org/synod2023, or contact the diocesan Synod Committee at email@example.com or by phone at 401-278-4646.
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