By Erica Cohen-Moore
In October of 2021, Pope Francis invited all Catholics throughout the world to participate in a Synod on Synodality. Pope Francis has brought about many initiatives during his time as Holy Father, but this one feels different: forward-thinking, engaging, encouraging. It is an opportunity for all Catholics to be in dialogue with one another and discern how the Catholic Church moves toward fulfilling the apostolic mission of Christ.
According to the Synod Handbook, “The synod is intended to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our communion mission.”
All Catholic (arch)dioceses and organizations have been invited to participate in the synodal process. We are being asked to create safe and sacred spaces where all Catholics can come to the table to participate in difficult and rewarding conversations. We are being called to reflect on the following questions:
- What have been the joys and obstacles in our journeying together with the Catholic Church?
- How is the Holy Spirit calling us to move forward as a church, as an individual?
The synod comes at an opportune time as I step into a role of leadership for the National Association of Catholic Chaplains. To understand any organization, it is vital to hear the voices of its members. I can read words and numbers on reports, but being in dialogue with our members makes ideas, hopes, and concerns come to life in a different, more fruitful way.
To that end, we must include as many chaplain voices in the synod process as possible. It is a perfect vehicle for me to hear from each of you, allowing me to learn what is on your hearts and minds. What are your priorities and desires? What are your apprehensions and worries? More importantly, given that chaplains serve on the front lines of the Church, our global leadership needs the kind of information that only you possess. You are holding hands with the dying and bringing comfort to the sick and lonely. You are present to those who are invisible and forgotten. You are receiving the sacred stories of those who suffer.
Indeed, the Synod Handbook stresses that “We must personally reach out to the peripheries, to those who have left the Church, those who rarely or never practice their faith, those who experience poverty of marginalization, refugees, the excluded, the voiceless, etc.” As chaplains, we have a tremendous responsibility to serve on the margins. Our care and compassion could be the catalyst for bringing a person back to their faith and into closer relationship with God. Our accompaniment can channel the Holy Spirit’s healing presence to those who need it most. Your work on these various peripheries means your feedback and sharing is of the utmost importance – and the synod, therefore, is not complete without you.
The NACC has already convened two listening sessions, and two more are scheduled for April 19 and April 22. Click here to register. Important themes have already emerged, which will be included in our report to the USCCB.
I invite and encourage you to attend one of these sessions. The data collected will not only help guide our global Church, but also the mission and vision for the NACC in the coming year.
All of our members are encouraged to complete this survey for the synodal process. All of our compiled information will be submitted to USCCB at the end of June. This report will also be shared with all of our members and will guide our journey forward as a Catholic community dedicated to serving others.