Anne-Marie Welsh

NORTH AMERICA — After several years of preparation — including the participation of more than 3,000 people in the Diocese of Erie who chose to take part in parish or group discussions — the Catholic Church is on the threshold of holding the first of two international assemblies in Rome. The sessions, under the umbrella title of “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission,” will open October 4, 2023, and conclude on October 28. Pope Francis has said a second gathering will take place in October 2024.

          The Diocese of Erie continues to host a microsite providing an overview, links to the documents created at the diocesan, national and international level, and a series of articles defining what the synod is and is not. 

          But as the first international gathering draws near, leaders around the world are committing to prayer and inviting all members of the church to join in the effort. In his letter to bishop and eparchs around the world, Cardinal Mario Grech, who will oversee the General Secretariat of the Synod, reminded them that the assembly is “above all a spiritual event, of prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit who is the true protagonist of the event.” As such, all of the baptized are called upon to participate.

          The secretariate now has created a site, available in several languages, with prayers that can be offered by parish communities as well as smaller groups or individuals. Find the English version here.

          One of the Americans who will serve on the North American delegation is Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle. In a recent reflection, which includes a link to the full list of delegates from North America, he shared insights into the group’s first meeting and prayerful commitments in preparation for the October synod. He also noted that “the goal of the Synod is not to produce a document. Rather, as the working document says: ‘Its aim will be to continue to animate the synodal process in the ordinary life of the church, identifying which pathways the Spirit invites us to walk along more decisively as one People of God.’”

          People around the world have been weighing in with both their hopes and concerns about the synod. An unprecedented effort to gather, listen to and summarize what is on the hearts and minds of Catholics and those interested in the church has been accomplished. But as the next phase of work begins, all are not only invited but called upon to join with their brothers and sisters around the world, asking especially that the process be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.