Bishop David M. O'Connell films video messages on the Sixteenth Ordinary Synod for parishes and high schools. Staff photo.
Bishop David M. O'Connell films video messages on the Sixteenth Ordinary Synod for parishes and high schools. Staff photo.

On April 24 of this year, Pope Francis announced the convocation of the Sixteenth Ordinary Synod with the theme “For A Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.” This Synod, which opened on Oct. 10 with Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, will unfold in three stages – the diocesan stage, the continental stage and the universal stage which concludes in Rome in October 2023.

Having begun the diocesan stage of the process on Oct. 17, with Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, the Synod is now underway in Mercer, Burlington, Ocean and Monmouth Counties and will continue until April 2022.

To clarify the Synod process for the faithful, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., has prepared two video messages, one for parishes and one for schools, which briefly explain the meaning and purpose of a Synod and the unique process for this particular Synod which includes not only bishops but the entire People of God.

In his message, Bishop O’Connell explains that a Synod, which comes from a Greek term meaning common road or path, is a special gathering of bishops who come from all over the world to meet with the Pope. Synods are not new to the Church, explains the Bishop, but have taken place since the second century.

Watch Bishop O'Connell's video message here:

In 1965, Pope St. Paul VI made Synods a regular, permanent part of the Catholic Church, with bishops meeting with the Holy Father to share opinions and advice on a number of important topics, including preserving the Catholic faith, the priesthood, religious education, the role of bishops, Eucharist, the Bible, the family, the work of the Church throughout the world, and changes in the Catholic Church.

For Synod 2021-2023, Bishop O’Connell underscores the desire of Pope Francis to include the entire Church in the Synod process and stresses the importance of the Synod image of “journeying together on a common path.”

Reflecting on the Synod theme, “communion, participation, mission,” the Bishop offered Pope Francis’ belief that the goal of the Synod is communion, “which requires that we listen to the word of God and what the Holy Spirit is saying to us and to one another as a community of faith.”

The Holy Father calls us to participation and mission, says Bishop O’Connell, “putting our faith into practice in the world, to do something as members of the Catholic Church. All of this requires encounter, meeting God in our lives, along with one another, not arguing or debating this or that teaching or rule, but discernment, figuring out what our faith really means.”

To all the faithful, Bishop O’Connell stresses, “The Catholic Church, your Church, needs you to be involved, in and through your parish. The Diocese exists and lives in its parishes. It is where we experience the Eucharist, the source and center of our lives of faith.”

The Bishop encourages all to get involved as their parishes engage in the Synod process, stressing that the Synod is “one means for your parish, your Diocese, your Church, to hear from you, to listen to you as you tell us what you think about, what you talk about with one another and how you live your faith.”

To youth of the Diocese, Bishop O’Connell emphasizes, “The Church is not just for older generations. It is for you, it includes you and the Catholic Church wants to hear from you, listen to you as you think about, talk about and live your faith.”

At the close of the videos, Bishop O’Connell presents questions for the faithful to reflect upon personally, in their prayer and in parish discussions as the Synod moves forward:

How do you experience God right now? What does your faith mean to you right now? How can the Church and your parish help you to live and grow in your faith?