Archdiocese of New York Laity, Clergy Participate in Interim Synod Sessions

| 03/26/2024

By: Steven Schwankert

More than 160 people attended or participated virtually in the one-day listening session at St. Joseph’s Seminary

Archdiocese of New York Auxiliary Bishop John Bonnici welcomes attendees of the Synod on Synodality interim session at St. Joseph's Seminary, Saturday, March 23, 2024.
Archdiocese of New York Auxiliary Bishop John Bonnici welcomes attendees of the Synod on Synodality interim session at St. Joseph's Seminary, Saturday, March 23, 2024. Photo by Steven Schwankert/The Good Newsroom

Archdiocese of New York Auxiliary Bishop John Bonnici chose to see the rain that poured down on Saturday, March 23, as a blessing of the Synod Interim Session held at St. Joseph’s Seminary, rather than a misfortune. 

Referring to the precipitation as “holy water,” Bishop Bonnici welcomed the more than 140 people who attended the English-language session in person, along with others who joined virtually. Participants included lay people, sisters and brothers religious, and members of the clergy. A separate, Spanish-language session was held in the afternoon, also at the seminary. 

He emphasized the importance of listening as being at the core of synodality. “It’s not only about proclaiming or offering pronouncements, it also requires a good technique of listening. And that is synodality. Not coming up with responses before the question is even asked, but humbly listening to the questions. Hearing the issues. Addressing the concerns. And then, guided by the Holy Spirit, coming up with solutions, changes, acknowledgements, a life of faith that nurtures all of God’s children,” Bishop Bonnici said in his opening remarks. 

“The interim sessions came about from a process of discernment for a need to focus on the co-responsibility of the laity. In this way our lay people gathered for prayer and shared their responses to the two discussion questions,” said Elizabeth Guevara de Gonzalez, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Adult Faith Formation, explaining the purpose of the meeting.

The attendees broke down into smaller groups. Each group, about six people per table, turned to the two questions they were asked to consider: the first question was, where have I seen or experienced successes within the Church’s structure(s), organization, leadership, and life that encourage the mission? How can we expand on that? The second question was: How can the structures and organization of the Church help all the baptized to respond to the call to proclaim the Gospel and to live as a community of love and mercy in Christ?

After taking a silent minute to consider the question, each participant then had two to three minutes to provide their answer. Discussion was led by a group facilitator, who was designated prior to the start of the day. Remarks were recorded by a scribe, so that views expressed could later by collated into a final report. This process was used for both questions.

An ongoing process

The Synod on Synodality is a gathering of bishops, clergy, and lay people convened by the Catholic Church to discuss and reflect on the concept of synodality, the practice of communal discernment and decision-making within the Church. The goal of the synod is to promote a more inclusive and participatory approach to governance and leadership within the Church, emphasizing the importance of listening to all members of the faith community. Through prayer, dialogue, and collaboration, the Synod on Synodality seeks to strengthen the unity and mission of the Church in today’s world.

Initial listening sessions in the Archdiocese of New York took place during Lent of 2022, after which a Synodal Synthesis report was produced, reflecting the opinions expressed during those consultations. In October, 2023, bishops and others from around the world, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan in his capacity as Archbishop of New York, traveled to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis as part of the synodal process.

Themes that emerged from Saturday’s group discussions, presented by selected group facilitators, included the need for missionary discipleship, both within Catholic groups and beyond; spiritual mentorship; accountability; and the need to trust parishioners and the laity to undertake some tasks formerly handled by clergy.

The event lasted two hours, ending with a prayer led by Bishop Bonnici.

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