The 2021-2023 Synod, called for by Pope Francis in 2021, has entered a new phase. Pope Francis made the call, worldwide, and thousands in the Diocese of Raleigh responded this year. The listening sessions, which were held in both English and Spanish at four locations at the diocesan level and several locations at the parish level, are complete and 10 themes emerged.
According to the Synodus Episcoporum (PDF), a synthesis produced by the diocese based on feedback, those themes are:
1. Laity Formation
Providing information and formation for adults, leaders, youth, families and children. Preparing volunteers and creating catechists and apologetics.
Encouraging personal encounters with Christ.
3. Clergy Engagement
Training for clergy to provide for more involvement in the parish and clearer messaging on Church teachings. Help priests to increase their intercultural competency. Permit pastors to remain at a parish longer and get to know their parishioners.
4. Inclusivity - People Feeling Unwelcome
Recognize the need for the Church to embrace diversity in race, genders, ages, and cultures and provide a more welcome environment for all.
More understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ community, including same sex marriage. Some members of the LGBTQ community expressed hurt with the label of “intrinsically disordered.”
Increasing difficulty to live a faithful, Catholic life in an increasingly secular and divisive culture with an overwhelming influence of technology and media.
7. Social Justice
More engagement on issues including immigration, racism, climate change, the poor, and respecting life. The Church needs to move and act beyond the walls of the Church.
Reaching out and engaging young people; listening to them and being more welcoming of them and their ideas. Balancing the information and impact of technology and secular culture on youth.
More pastor support to lead ministry, retreats at the parish level.
10. Church Teaching
A stronger emphasis on Church teachings, remaining firm on ethics and moral teachings and the sacraments.
By the numbers
2021 – 2023 Synod in the Diocese of Raleigh
1,000 People who participated in in-person listening sessions
25 In-person listening sessions held
4,000 People participated in online survey
2 Virtual listening sessions held
The ‘why’ of walking together
To learn more about the synod, visit dioceseofraleigh.org/synod. Find the synod prayer, resources, a primer on synodality, the history of this 2021-2023 synod and related stories.
Resources for ongoing dialogue are also available from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
- Creating a Culture of Encounter through One-to-Ones As members of the Body of Christ, we are each created in the image of and loved by God, we are called to form relationships with one another, and we are called to "create a culture of encounter." How can we "encounter" one another? One tool that is used by many faith communities and community groups is the one-to-one relational meeting.
- Questions to Facilitate Encounter This activity is to help members of a faith community to “encounter” one another and get to know other members of the family of the Body of Christ. The questions in the activity are geared towards “going deeper” and will be most useful at a planning day, retreat, or other event where time is not an issue. For shorter events not as conducive to community building, a single question could be used for discussion.
- Loving Our Neighbor Through Dialogue This resource can be used by parishes and dioceses to reflect and engage in authentic dialogue with their family, neighbors and friends.
“The purpose of this process is to listen and journey together. Despite our differences or our own agendas, we are one body of the Church. What is said is important. Each voice, each idea, is important. And I ask you to join me in praying that in listening, not just to each other but to what the Holy Spirt is asking of us, this journey will be fruitful.”
- Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama
Feedback from participants in the listening sessions
“We, the Church, need to be more inclusive to our people. The Church has an air of un-welcoming behavior to those who are unlike ‘us.’”
“There is a lot of hurt in the Church, and we need to be able to dialogue with others with completely different backgrounds. The synod gives hope that there will be a more welcoming approach to the Church where all feel welcomed and loved.”
“I came here to share what I feel would benefit our youth. As a 14-year-old, I have strong opinions. I want people to hear from someone young. Teens don’t get to express our opinions. I was glad to be invited. I spoke and was treated as a member like everyone else. I feel the Holy Spirit came to me in my words for a better future.”
“We need to focus on the 'true presence' in the Eucharist. We should let more people celebrate the Latin Mass.”
“I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit in our communal voice. We are all on this journey together.”
“I will return home with hope, putting the Holy Spirit as my motivator at the center of my life!”