Over the next several months, Catholics throughout the Diocese of Rochester will have the opportunity to raise priorities regarding their faith — on both a local and worldwide level — while also preparing for a national renewal on the Eucharist.
On Sunday, Oct. 10, the regularly scheduled 11:15 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral will note the global launching of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Bishop Salvatore R. Matano will celebrate the local kickoff liturgy, and the public is encouraged to attend.
Pope Francis is convening the worldwide Synod under the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” It will consist of three phases — diocesan, continental and universal — spread out over a two-year period, with an assembly of the world’s bishops due to conclude the Synod in October 2023 in Rome.
“Enlightened by the Word of God and united in prayer, we will be able to discern the processes to seek God’s will and pursue the pathways to which God calls us — towards deeper communion, fuller participation, and greater openness to fulfilling our mission in the world,” states the introduction to the Vatican-issued Synod vademecum, or handbook.
The Synod’s local phase is just beginning in the Rochester Diocese and will run through the spring of 2022. It will include development of an online survey for individuals, opportunities for in-person input from parishes and groups, and creation of a Synod page on the Diocese of Rochester website. Information gathered will be incorporated into a 10-page report that Bishop Matano will approve and send to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in April 2022. The report’s results will be shared with the diocesan Presbyteral Council and parishes.
“I think it’s an important time,” observed Bernard Grizard, diocesan director of the Department of Pastoral Services. “It’s critical to listen, to participate and to collaborate to get the best wisdom to carry out the mission of the church.”
Grizard is serving as diocesan representative for the synodal process along with Shannon Kilbridge, associate director of the pastoral-services department. Grizard said a key priority will be “to listen to all the different bodies within our diocesan family,” adding that while specific areas of discussion are still being developed, the Synod’s diocesan phase will move along steadily, since the bishop’s report to the USCCB is due in just six months.
According to the Vatican’s Synod handbook, the fundamental questions being explored are how the faithful are journeying together in their local church, and how the Holy Spirit might be encouraging them to grow in that regard. Participants will be asked to recall their experiences in their local churches: “What joys did they bring? What difficulties and obstacles have they encountered? What wounds did they reveal? What insights have they elicited?” From there, the vademecum adds, questions should be asked regarding, “Where in these experiences does the voice of the Holy Spirit resound? What is the Spirit asking of us? What are the points to be confirmed, the prospects for change, the steps to be taken? Where do we register a consensus? What paths are opening up for our local Church?”
In a Sept. 17, 2021, letter to parish leaders announcing the start of the synodal process, Bishop Matano 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.
The USCCB-led revival aims to foster deeper devotion and knowledge about the Eucharist nationwide, with a particular focus on local dioceses, parishes and families. The diocesan committee for the revival consists of Stephen Loughlin, president of St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry; Leslie Barkin, diocesan director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and coordinator of youth and young-adult ministry; and James Tauzel, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools.
Bishop Matano noted in his Sept. 17 letter that the Synod and Eucharistic Revival “necessarily complement each other.”
“For once we have come to truly know, love and bond with Jesus,” he wrote, “we appreciate the call of every baptized person to participate in His life which culminates in Eucharistic Communion, which then embraces the mission: the charitable service we render to our sisters and brothers in God’s family and the invitation extended to all people, especially the poor, the suffering, the outcast, the forgotten, the foreigner and the alienated to encounter the Risen Christ, visible in the Most Holy Eucharist, His voice heard in Holy Scripture, and His love felt through their sisters and brothers in the family of God.”