ROCHESTER — In union with Pope Francis, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano opened the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 10 during the regularly scheduled 11:15 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Pope Francis is convening the worldwide Synod under the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”
At the beginning of his homily, Bishop Matano explained that the Synod, which has three phases — diocesan, continental and universal — will conclude with the assembly of the Synod Bishops in Rome in October 2023.
For the diocesan phase of the Synod, Bishop Matano has appointed Bernard Grizard and Shannon Kilbridge, director and associate director of the diocesan Office of Pastoral Services, respectively, to serve as diocesan representatives to foster the consultation process. The information gathered from online surveys for individuals and in-person input from parishes and groups will be used to create a 10-page report as directed by the Holy See that Bishop Matano will review and send to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in April 2022. A preliminary timeline has been communicated to parishes and religious institutions in the diocese, and additional information will be released in the coming weeks inviting local participation. A synodal team also will be formed to assist Grizard and Kilbridge in their work.
“This consultation comes at a time when the world, our country, society, both civil and ecclesial, are experiencing so many divisions, conflicts and existing under the shadow of confusion and doubt,” Bishop Matano told those gathered at the cathedral Oct. 10, noting that the faithful of the diocese continue to carry the burden of the sexual-abuse crisis, especially the survivors, for whom the bishop prays daily, along with the faithful’s own personal crosses that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. All these realities have people searching for the soul of the church and in our communities, he said.
“It is only reasonable for people to ask, ‘Where is the light, will the darkness ever end?’ Those within the church ask, ‘Where are our sisters and brothers absent from the worshipping community?’ Indeed, this is the time to reflect, to seek out the heart of Christ, and to discover the cure and the soul of humanity, namely the person of Jesus Christ, present in the most holy Eucharist,” Bishop Matano said.
Midway through his homily, Bishop Matano spoke about the Synod’s preparatory document and handbook (Vademecum), issued by the Vatican in September, and that the goal of the Synod continues what has always been the goal and mission of the church, which is to make possible the encounter of people with the person of Jesus Christ.
“Can any of us say we do not need to encounter Jesus anew? Can any of us say that the world is not in need of healing, of reconciliation, of forgiveness and of unity?” Bishop Matano asked. “Without Jesus we lose the very focus of our journey, for in accompanying one another along the journey, we must have a final destination. It is Jesus calling us to be embraced by his own Sacred Heart. Hasn’t that been the mission of the church and our diocese, to accompany people to discover Jesus?”
Bishop Matano said he looks at the Synod as a moment of cooperation, collaboration and giving birth to renewed unity within the church. He also noted that the worldwide Synod is being launched at the same time the U.S. Catholic Church is preparing for the beginning of a Eucharistic Revival set for July 2022 through December 2024.
As he concluded his homily, Bishop Matano said the synodal process is the time to come together in prayer and eucharistic adoration and to let Jesus speak to us.
“Let us look upon this process as a time to build up rather than to tear down, to unite rather than to divide, to recognize each other as members of the family of God. To work and to heal, especially those who are suffering the most for any number of reasons,” the bishop said.
Before the final blessing and dismissal, Bishop Matano led the faithful in the recitation of the Adsumus Sancte Spiritus, the Prayer of the Synod, attributed to St. Isidore of Seville:
We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son,
forever and ever.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Diocese of Rochester has created a special Synod web page, https://www.dor.org/synod, which will include information on how to participate in the input process and will contain Synod documents provided by the Vatican.