The bishops of the United States are being asked to host several additional listening sessions in the upcoming months, as part of the next stage of the Church’s synod on synodality.
The listening sessions are asked to focus on the role of structures and organizations in the Church, and will need to be completed and synthesized by early April.
The request was made in a Jan. 2 letter to the U.S. bishops from Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on doctrine, and coordinator of the USCCB's role in the global synodal process.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Pillar, Flores said the listening sessions should focus on two questions from the USCCB, based on guidance from the permanent secretariat for the Synod of Bishops in Rome: “Where have I seen or experienced successes—and distresses—within the Church’s structure(s)/organization/leadership/life that encourage or hinder the mission?” and “How can the structures and organization of the Church help all the baptized to respond to the call to proclaim the Gospel and to live as a community of love and mercy in Christ?”
The synod on synodality is an ongoing global process aimed at fostering prayer, discussing, and discernment in the life of the Church. It started with a diocesan phase in 2021, which included listening sessions that were synthesized into a national, then continental, report.
The universal phase of the synod is taking place in two parts. The first occurred last October at the Vatican, with delegates from around the globe. The second portion of the global phase is scheduled to take place in October of this year at the Vatican.
Between the two global sessions, the secretariat for the Synod of Bishops has asked episcopal conferences across the globe to help prepare for the second global session.
“The general guidance from the Secretariat is twofold,” Flores said in his letter.
“We are invited to hold discernment sessions regarding the guiding question in order to help prepare a USCCB summary due to the Secretariat in May 2024,” he said.
“Further, we are encouraged to continue ongoing engagement with the People of God in the dynamism of a synodal style.”
To respond to these requests, Flores said, the U.S. synod team is asking that each diocese in the United States hold two or three listening sessions and prepare a 3-5 page synthesis of the discussion at those sessions.
The synthesis of the listening sessions should be sent to the USCCB by April 8, Flores said. The diocesan synthesis documents will then be summarized for the secretariat.
“Dioceses also have the option of including a two-page testimony of best practices for synodality developed in the dioceses,” Flores added.
The USCCB will also be holding national level listening sessions, Flores added. These will examine the topics of vocations, social justice, and participation. He also noted that there will be a national working group for diocesan synod leaders.
“I am most grateful for your assistance with this matter,” Flores said in his letter. “We all know time is short, but even modest efforts at the local level can bear much fruit. Let us do what we can, as well as we can and trust the Lord to accomplish beyond what we can foresee.”