By David Lewellen
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent its synod report to the Vatican, emphasizing the role of lay leadership and women.
The NACC participated in the unprecedented listening sessions earlier this year. We offered four opportunities in March and April to gather virtually and consider two 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 are able to journey together?
Members’ thoughts and input were considered as part of Region XIV, a grouping that consisted of 112 Catholic organizations that contributed to the process.
The USCCB report, itself a synthesis of 22,000 reports from around the country, details the enduring wounds to the Church of the clergy sex abuse scandal, the pandemic, polarization within the Church, and marginalization of groups such as immigrants, the poor, and LGBTQ. Racism and the declining presence of young people were also causes for grief.
But another common theme was the desire for enhanced communion and for lifelong mission formation opportunities. Participants expressed a desire for greater recognition of women’s contributions to the life of the Church and a greater appreciation of what the laity can do.
Also, the report noted, “The synodal experience has enabled hundreds of thousands of Catholics throughout the United States to re-engage in the simple practice of gathering, praying together, and listening to one another.”
The United States is one of 111 bishops’ conferences that have sent reports to the General Secretariat of the Synod at the Vatican. The next step, according to America magazine, is for 35 clergy and laypeople from different continents to consider the reports and send a final report to Pope Francis, hopefully by the end of October. From there, continental assemblies will consider changes in 2023. By the fall of next year, a final document is expected on how synodality can take effect.