By Austine Duru
NACC hosted its very first World Café at the 2022 NACC National Conference in Buffalo, and participants shared that it was a meaningful experience.
The word “café” often evokes images of cozy informal spaces where people gather to connect with friends – or of NPR’s music radio program called “World Café.” But the NACC’s World Café, put simply, is an engagement tool to draw multiple people into conversation around several topics of mutual interest simultaneously, over a short period of time. The intent is not to come to a resolution, but simply to identify potential solutions or paths forward.
The impetus for the NACC’s World Café rises out of the synodal journey that we embarked on this year, alongside the local and universal Church. Describing the synodal process, Pope Francis wrote on Nov. 29, 2021, “Synodality is a style, it is a walk together, and it is what the Lord expects from the Church of the third millennium.”
You may recall that NACC members early in the year welcomed this incredible opportunity to share their joys and challenges on a wide range of subjects relating to their ministry to God’s people and their service to the Church. Members responded to the initial survey questions: What have been the joys and obstacles in your journeying together with the church? And how might the Holy Spirit be prompting you, and all of us as church, to improve the ways we journey together?
To share further insights with the NACC leadership, the conference planning committee wanted to take advantage of this moment where members were gathered in person. Four questions that surfaced during the initial phases of the synodal process were posed:
- To better meet the sacramental needs of our Church: How can individual chaplains (and/or your local facility) improve relations with your diocese?
- To nurture greater appreciation for women in ministry: How can the voices and skills of women chaplains facilitate meaningful engagement with the local church?
- To foster greater collegiality between NACC chaplains and the local diocese: How can NACC members impact the formation of seminarians? How can NACC members influence and collaborate with local diocesan structures and ministries?
- To strengthen our diversity and inclusion: How can NACC more authentically reflect the racial diversity within the American Catholic Church? How can NACC members more authentically reflect the racial demographic of the geographical areas they serve?
The process was simple and largely unstructured. Each topic question was assigned a meeting room with a chaplain facilitator. Participants could visit any of the rooms and join the dialogue with that group. They were free to move between meeting rooms and engage in as many conversations as they wished.
Following the lunch break, participants gathered in the grand ballroom of the conference hotel for a brief report back to the full group.
The process was fruitful and meaningful for participants. Several flip chart pages were filled with ideas, suggestions, and recommendations. Participants reported that they were impressed with the level of excitement and engagement from participants as they listening to the Holy Spirit and to each other, discerning the path we are called to walk together.
Austine Duru, BCC, is chief mission officer at Providence Mission Hospital in Southern California.