Worshipers in the Rochester area gather to discuss the mission of the church

Hundreds of people throughout the Diocese of Rochester have been discussing in recent weeks how best to fulfill the mission of the Catholic Church.

Their conversations, which take place in small groups of varying size and composition, are part of the local phase of the XVI World Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

“I’m incredibly amazed at the response we’ve received at this point. I think we’ve gotten off to a very good start here in our process,” said Bernard Grizard, director of the Diocesan Office of Pastoral Services. it will help us chart our course forward as a church.”

There is still time for every member of the diocese to help define this path by participating in the discussions, which are the local component of the two-year synod process convened by Pope Francis in October 2021.

Listening sessions began in mid-November and focused on the 10 themes of the Synod, covering topics such as journeying with others and listening to others; liturgical celebrations; and dialogue in the Church, with society and with other confessions. Discussion questions related to each theme can be found on the Diocesan Synod website (www.dor.org/synod).

Listening sessions based on these themes took place in several dozen small groups, said Grizard, who is one of two diocesan representatives for the Synod, along with Shannon Kilbridge, associate director of the Office of Pastoral Services.

Examples of small discussion groups might be the members of a parish’s pastoral council, people interested in a particular ministry or outreach, or a handful of parishioners who are simply interested in the synod process and have accepted the invitation. to participate,” explained Grizard.

Listening sessions can be informal, and those involved are free to focus on topics that interest them; there is no obligation to cover the 10, he added.

At the end of each listening session, a member serving as a designated facilitator or note taker will compile the responses generated during the discussion and submit them to the Diocese; a form for doing so can be found on the Diocesan Synod website.

Listening sessions conducted so far have taken a wide variety of formats — from in-person gatherings and phone conversations to virtual Zoom meetings, Kilbridge said. Such flexibility encourages participation from people who may not be comfortable going out due to concerns about COVID-19 or inclement weather, as well as those who are temporarily or permanently housebound due to illness. she said.

“I am so happy to see the creativity used,” she said, noting that the resources provided by the diocese are meant to be used in the most flexible way possible.

“Our experiences in our parishes due to the pandemic have been varied, and so we wanted to make sure it was something that was easily adaptable to different experiences and to be used outside of the parish experience,” Kilbridge said.

Synod discussions can also take place outside of organized listening sessions, she said, noting that people are free to submit contributions to the Synod on their own or based on informal conversations with neighbors. , friends or relatives. Such conversations are actually encouraged, Kilbridge said.

Casual, informal talks are ways to reach “people who might never come to the parish,” she said. “We also see this as an opportunity to reach out to people who may not have returned since the start of the pandemic, re-engage them in parish life and invite them to return to celebrate the Eucharist. together. ”

Former Catholics who have left the church are also invited to contribute, as are non-Catholics, Grizard added.

When the synod was announced last fall, listening sessions were scheduled to run through February, but the schedule has since been extended and local listening sessions will now continue through March.

Local responses will be synthesized into a 10-page report, which will be shared within the diocese and sent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by June 30, Kilbridge said.

The USCCB, in turn, will create its own report to be submitted to the Vatican by March 2022. Reports from episcopal conferences around the world will be incorporated into a working document prepared as a basis for discussion at the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October. 2023.

Charles K. Eckert