Questions addressed, discussions held during Synod Listening Sessions

March 6, 2024 at 9:50 a.m.
Listening session participants take part in prayer. Mary Stadnyk photo
Listening session participants take part in prayer. Mary Stadnyk photo

By Mary Stadnyk, Associate Editor

As the worldwide Synod of Bishops on synodality moves forward, so does the need for honest and continued listening and sharing.

Synodality loosely means journeying together as the people of God, and with the Synod’s second general assembly scheduled for October, the Vatican has requested further reflection and input from throughout the world. The U.S. bishops asked dioceses to focus on two questions: “Where have I seen or experienced successes — and distresses — within the Church’s structure(s) organizations/leadership/life that encourage or hinder the mission?” and “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?”

The Diocese of Trenton responded to the request by scheduling two listening sessions: in person March 2 in St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction, and an online session March 7. Participants included those who joined in the previous listening sessions during the Synod’s first consultative phase in 2021-2022 as well as those with no prior experience, said Terry Ginther, diocesan chancellor and executive director of Pastoral Life and Mission.

Speaking From Experience

“Having participated in more than 20 Synod listening sessions, I can see trends that impact parish life at the pastoral, grassroots level,” said Father Jim Grogan, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown.

“When considering multiple listening sessions, using the Spiritual Conversation Method, patterns are seen,” Father Grogan said, referring to the questions posed starting in 2021 and those now being asked of Catholics about when they felt hurt and their views of how they may be healed.

“Hearing their concerns and suggestions allows those in leadership positions in the Church, both pastors and parish leaders, to create the environment where concerns are addressed,” he said. One example he shared was at the parish level, where people were looking for support for bereavement and for those who are separated and divorced.

“In both of those cases,” he said, “parish-based programs were initiated to better address such concerns,” he said. At the March 2 session, he continued, “it was clear that there is a yearning for support that addresses social justice and broad education in the current teaching of our Church.”

Honest Discussion

Doris Galuchie of St. Alphonsus Parish, Hopewell, saw the March 2 session as being a time to explore practical solutions to the perceived shortcomings of the Church.

“During our group discussion, we agreed that most of the needed improvements identified in the report could be reached by bridging the gap between the parishioners and the clergy through education and communication,” said Galuchie, who attended the Synod training conducted by the Diocese in 2022, then served as a facilitator for several listening sessions in her parish.

“We agreed that many parishioners are in need of greater instruction on the Church’s tenets and that clergy must communicate better with their parishioners to assess and address particular needs,” she said.

Fellow participant Peter Eckel of St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction, viewed the listening session as an opportunity to give participants a chance to share their experiences of how the Church is currently carrying out the work of the Gospel.

“This was a perfectly focused session for the Holy Spirit to be heard in our humble, shared experiences,” he said. “I found having small groups share their experiences to be more like a family discussion. The structure of the session with a brief meditation fostered the openness of conversation.”

Father Grogan added that being a pastor with a large parish, he considers the insight echoed in so many listening sessions to be a “type of mandate to do better now in areas of concern to the participants without waiting for the finalization of the process in Rome later on in October.

“While I believe there will be global benefits for our Church to the process of listening and dialogue, I believe we can and should begin to take local action now within parishes,” he said.


Participants review materials during the Listening Session held March 2 in St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction. Mary Stadnyk photo 

 



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As the worldwide Synod of Bishops on synodality moves forward, so does the need for honest and continued listening and sharing.

Synodality loosely means journeying together as the people of God, and with the Synod’s second general assembly scheduled for October, the Vatican has requested further reflection and input from throughout the world. The U.S. bishops asked dioceses to focus on two questions: “Where have I seen or experienced successes — and distresses — within the Church’s structure(s) organizations/leadership/life that encourage or hinder the mission?” and “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?”

The Diocese of Trenton responded to the request by scheduling two listening sessions: in person March 2 in St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction, and an online session March 7. Participants included those who joined in the previous listening sessions during the Synod’s first consultative phase in 2021-2022 as well as those with no prior experience, said Terry Ginther, diocesan chancellor and executive director of Pastoral Life and Mission.

Speaking From Experience

“Having participated in more than 20 Synod listening sessions, I can see trends that impact parish life at the pastoral, grassroots level,” said Father Jim Grogan, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown.

“When considering multiple listening sessions, using the Spiritual Conversation Method, patterns are seen,” Father Grogan said, referring to the questions posed starting in 2021 and those now being asked of Catholics about when they felt hurt and their views of how they may be healed.

“Hearing their concerns and suggestions allows those in leadership positions in the Church, both pastors and parish leaders, to create the environment where concerns are addressed,” he said. One example he shared was at the parish level, where people were looking for support for bereavement and for those who are separated and divorced.

“In both of those cases,” he said, “parish-based programs were initiated to better address such concerns,” he said. At the March 2 session, he continued, “it was clear that there is a yearning for support that addresses social justice and broad education in the current teaching of our Church.”

Honest Discussion

Doris Galuchie of St. Alphonsus Parish, Hopewell, saw the March 2 session as being a time to explore practical solutions to the perceived shortcomings of the Church.

“During our group discussion, we agreed that most of the needed improvements identified in the report could be reached by bridging the gap between the parishioners and the clergy through education and communication,” said Galuchie, who attended the Synod training conducted by the Diocese in 2022, then served as a facilitator for several listening sessions in her parish.

“We agreed that many parishioners are in need of greater instruction on the Church’s tenets and that clergy must communicate better with their parishioners to assess and address particular needs,” she said.

Fellow participant Peter Eckel of St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction, viewed the listening session as an opportunity to give participants a chance to share their experiences of how the Church is currently carrying out the work of the Gospel.

“This was a perfectly focused session for the Holy Spirit to be heard in our humble, shared experiences,” he said. “I found having small groups share their experiences to be more like a family discussion. The structure of the session with a brief meditation fostered the openness of conversation.”

Father Grogan added that being a pastor with a large parish, he considers the insight echoed in so many listening sessions to be a “type of mandate to do better now in areas of concern to the participants without waiting for the finalization of the process in Rome later on in October.

“While I believe there will be global benefits for our Church to the process of listening and dialogue, I believe we can and should begin to take local action now within parishes,” he said.


Participants review materials during the Listening Session held March 2 in St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction. Mary Stadnyk photo 

 


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