Within the context of the Synod on Synodality, Sister Laurence Loubières, XMCJ, director of the Service for Discernment in Common, recently led a webinar to “help Ignatian men and women situate themselves in the synodal process and engage creatively and fruitfully, either by joining initiatives that already exist or by creating new initiatives in their specific contexts.”
Although the webinar was prepared for Jesuits and the Ignatian family, it can easily be used to reach a wider audience and help other groups in the Church. The first phase of the synodal process will soon be completed (the date may vary from one diocese to another), and thus the webinar is an opportunity for people to acquire the practical tools they need to participate in the process.
August 15, 2022, is the deadline for episcopal conferences to submit their synthesis. This means that each diocese will be setting an earlier deadline for its own synthesis. Consult your diocese to learn what your deadline is locally.
This article offers a review of the synodal process and of the Ignatian family’s call to participate, as well as a brief summary of “Synod on Synodality – Empowerment Webinar.”
“The Synod is for everyone, and it is meant to include everyone.” Why this openness? According to Sister Laurence, it’s to learn from those we don’t usually associate with, to broaden our horizons by recognizing that we need these people and what they have to say.
The Synod on Synodality: listening to the voices on the peripheries
While the origin of synods goes back to the beginning of the Church, the practice of synodal assemblies developed especially after Vatican II. The Council reaffirmed the nature of the Church as the pilgrim people of God, discerning in the signs of the times how to live and witness to the Gospel in the world. “The Church as the pilgrim people of God, and not just a hierarchy, is really fundamental,” says Sister Laurence. “Synodality, in the end, is simply coming back to the fact that the Church is synodal in nature, a pilgrim people who discern together.”
The spirit of the synod is to create the broadest possible conversation with members of the Church, but especially with people we don’t usually listen to, she explains.
The Pope stressed that “everyone is a protagonist, no one can be considered a mere extra. […] ‘But, Father, what are you saying? Are the poor, the beggars, the young drug addicts, all those people whom society discards, part of the Synod?’ Yes, dear friends, it is not I who am saying this, it is the Lord. They, too, are part of the Church, and you will not properly celebrate the Synod unless you somehow make them part of it, or spend time with them, not only listening to what they have to say, but also feeling what they feel, listening to them even if they may insult you. The Synod is for everyone, and it is meant to include everyone.” Why this openness? According to Sister Laurence, it’s to learn from those we don’t usually associate with, to broaden our horizons by recognizing that we need these people and what they have to say.
Within this context, how should we—Jesuits and members of the Ignatian family—reach out to people who are not in our usual circles? How will we be able to listen to the voices that are not heard in the Church? How will we help people on the peripheries to contribute what they have to share?
The Synod on Synodality is thus a Church-wide process of discernment in common: a series of conversations, prayers, and reflections that will create the conditions to enable the whole Church to listen to the Spirit and move forward together.
“There is an element of the synodal process that asks us to move out of our Ignatian networks where everyone thinks like us and in which we tend to enclose ourselves,” explains Sister Laurence. “How can we reach out to people we are not used to talking to?” The webinar is designed to encourage this type of approach.
Using the gifts of Ignatian spirituality
Sister Laurence notes that the purpose of the webinar is to help members of the Ignatian family in Canada, as well as others, to become participants in the Synod on Synodality.
“It aims to empower people to discern for themselves where they can bear the most fruit. How? By inviting them to reflect on different ways to participate in the Synod and by reminding them that Ignatian spirituality gives us tools for discernment, for reviewing events, and for engaging in spiritual conversation.”
She goes on to say that the Ignatian family is particularly well equipped to help local groups, our communities, and others enter peacefully into the synodal process, a process of listening together to the Spirit. “Indeed,” she adds, “the synod can be understood as a large-scale process of discernment in common.”
Sister Laurence points out that, more than the final document, the conversations and listening together are the very purpose of the synod. They are therefore crucial and already bring something new.
She goes on to say that the Ignatian family is particularly well equipped to help local groups, our communities, and others enter peacefully into the synodal process, a process of listening together to the Spirit.
Religious communities: a call to participate
As part of the Church, religious communities have their unique voice to share. They can reflect, listen, and discern within their communities before sending the fruits of their discernment either to their dioceses, to the CRC in Canada by February 1, or directly to the General Secretariat of the Synod in Rome. Given that the syntheses of the diocesan contributions to be prepared by the episcopal conferences must be sent in by August 15, 2022, it is important to ask about the diocesan deadlines in order to contribute reflections in a timely manner through any of these means.
“Religious communities can also use their networks, their know-how, and their competence,” says Sister Laurence, “to help out in parishes, to join other movements, to launch initiatives, and to offer times of prayer or spiritual conversation. They can also be a place of creativity to share about the Synod in ways that are adapted to various contexts.”
Speaking more specifically about Ignatian communities, Sister Laurence stresses that they have their part to play and their contribution to make to the Synod. “I would like these communities to feel prepared and empowered to engage in the synodal process, knowing that we have great riches and many strengths to share. Go out and meet people, offer to collaborate with those who are on the journey or even to organize activities!”
“Synod on Synodality – Empowerment Webinar” addresses three main themes that are summarized below. The entire webinar and all the tools discussed are available online.
- The Synod on Synodality: Spirit and process
- The pope has said that this Synod is a call from God, an invitation to come back to our identity as the pilgrim people of God and to leave our comfort zone. The Synod is an opportunity for a profound conversion to a humility that allows us to follow Christ. According to the pope, there are three key words: participation, communion, and mission.
- Ten theme-based approaches, such as “companions on the journey” and “discerning and deciding,” are suggested as possible ways to journey together.
- The process includes listening together to the Spirit, listening to those whose voices are rarely heard in the Church, learning to discover God in all things and in the world, and strengthening our belief that God is present and active in all events and situations.
- Ignatian Spirituality and the Synod: Tools for living the synodal process
- Ignatian spirituality affirms that God is at work in all things. It places great importance on personal and communal discernment in order to recognize the movements of the Spirit.
- The Synod is an opportunity for the Ignatian family to be open to others and to share with them who we are, for example, through reviewing events, engaging in spiritual conversation, and participating in a process of discernment in common. These concrete tools of Ignatian spirituality are online.
- Getting involved in the Synod: some ideas for reflection
- It is possible to participate in a variety of ways, and several suggestions are offered, for example, praying, mapping relationships/connections in the Church, sending input, etc.). Documents to help with the synodal journey are online.