Eight months after its launch, the two-year “Synod on Synodality” within the universal church marks a both “historic moment” and a journey “that in many ways is just beginning,” said Archbishop Nelson Pérez.
On June 4, the archbishop joined some two dozen faithful for a Mass to celebrate the closing of the diocesan phase of the Synod. Among those concelebrating the liturgy, which took place at the Chapel of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, were Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishops Edward Deliman and John McIntyre, as well as Msgr. Brian Hennessy, pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Maple Glen and coordinator for the archdiocesan phase of the synod.
The archbishop thanked Msgr. Hennessy for “taking upon himself, in the name of the church of Philadelphia, (the) pastoral guiding of the synodal process,” part of the worldwide preparations for the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023.
Launched by Pope Francis in October 2021, the two-year synod is organized around the theme of “communion, participation and mission.”
In the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the synod has taken the form of numerous listening sessions, both in person and online throughout the five-county area, led by volunteer facilitators who received training from the Malvern-based Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI).
In tandem with archdiocesan synodal activities, CLI also implemented the archdiocese’s “Called for More” initiative, using the “Disciple Maker Index” (DMI) tool to survey pastoral engagement among archdiocesan clergy, parish leaders and parishioners.
Now, said Archbishop Pérez, information gathered at the listening sessions — representing the direct input of several hundred participants – will be distilled into “a 10-page report that Msgr. Hennessy will put together” for review by the U.S. bishops.
With similar reports from dioceses throughout the nation, the bishops will then “prepare their own 10-page document” for Vatican review, said the archbishop.
Quoting the final verse of the day’s Gospel (Jn 21:20-25), Archbishop Pérez said he did not think “the whole world would contain the books that would be written” based on the conversations “that the universal and local church of Philadelphia have been having,” as well as the those taking place “within our own souls.”
Dialogue, rather than data, was the real goal of the synodal process, he said.
“This particular call of the Holy Father was never just about a report,” he said. “It’s about coming together to speak, to listen to each other.”
That dynamic reflects the very Trinity, which remains “in an eternal synodal process,” he said.
“There’s a dialogue that happens within the Trinity that’s so internal, and so unifying, that each Person of the Trinity cannot be understood without the other,” said Archbishop Pérez.
In calling the universal Synod, Pope Francis is asking the church to “reimagine” and “reinvigorate” its ongoing conversation with the divine and with its members, “that synodal way of being as we continue to walk together and talk to each other,” said the archbishop.
And the exchange has no end point, he added.
“I’m sure the Holy Father would say to you and to me, ‘There’s more to come,’” said the archbishop.
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