Journeying together: Synod listening sessions underway
March 8, 2022
Young adults attend a Café Catholica event in 2018. More than 60 young adults participated in a Feb. 16 listening session on the Synod and continued their discussions well after the session had wrapped. (Photo courtesy of Gabriel Couriel)
HOUSTON — Listening sessions for the Synod on Synodality are currently taking place in various venues and communities all over Galveston-Houston.
“It is definitely great to see the blossoming activity of the Synod work across the Archdiocese,” said Jim Barrette, secretariat director for Pastoral and Educational Ministries. “But the real measure of the works of the Synod can only be taken in active listening sessions, one after the other, where the experience of the Holy Spirit in the sharing and listening is astonishing and exciting.”
Through the Synod process, Pope Francis is inviting the faithful and those in the peripheries to share, discover and learn through diocesan listening sessions. In the local Archdiocese, session facilitators continue to be trained at parishes. Currently, there are more than 700 facilitators trained to lead listening sessions in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
“Sharing their experiences of ‘journeying together’ and noticing the presence of the Holy Spirit in those moments ignites the interactions between laity, religious and clergy,” Barrette said.
Almost 40 Catholic school principals have also been trained to lead listening sessions with faculty and staff in all elementary schools in the Archdiocese. In February, Archdiocesan schools hosted multiple listening sessions to support the activities called for by Pope Francis and the Synod, said Debra Haney, superintendent of Catholic Schools. Based on averages for each campus, approximately 1,000 educators participated in approximately 200 listening sessions to support the pope’s call to hear the voice of the people committed to the Catholic Church, according to Haney.
“Each listening session addressed the ways in which the Church responds to current issues within the Catholic community, as well as how people feel about how they have been accompanied or excluded based on their perspectives,” she said.
Approximately 20 staff members participated in a recent listening session at St. Jerome Catholic School. Those in attendance broke out into small groups to discuss their journey at St. Jerome, their experience journeying with others and focusing on a common mission.
“I think the group makeup steered the direction of the discussion. Some really took a deeper dive than others,” said Janet Krametbauer, St. Jerome principal. “It was a positive experience here and I feel like the comments the groups recorded were very much driven by the St. Jerome School experiences.”
In addition to parishes and Catholic schools, Barrette said several ministries are also actively participating in the local synod process: the Office of Deaf Ministry is currently inviting community members to share feedback on the synod through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; the Office of the Permanent Diaconate has scheduled several listening sessions for deacons and their wives; the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis is sponsoring several listening sessions for parish catechetical leaders across the Archdiocese, in-person and virtually; and the Ecumenical Commission is planning to convene members of the ecumenical community for a listening session.
Last month, the Office of Aging hosted a listening session with residents of St. Dominic Village, a senior care provider and residence, and a ministry of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The reflections shared by those in attendance captured both their former parish as well as current St. Dominic Village experiences, said Mark Ciesielski, Office of Aging Ministry director.
“They shared the joy of companionship especially in regard to prayer and worship together,” Ciesielski said. “They noted the challenge to engage in conversations that required respectful listening, understanding, compassion and openness to different viewpoints. They emphasized the importance of speaking openly and honestly with others and with leaders.”
“Finally, they wanted Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Italo Dell’Oro and the Synod of Bishops to know that they still have tremendous value to offer the Church through their wisdom, life experiences, talents and treasures.”
On Feb. 16, the “Young Adult Listening Session for the Synod” was held at St. Dominic Center, in both English and Spanish. A total of 25 parishes were represented during the English session; 13 parishes were represented in the Spanish session.
Angela Pometto, Young Adult and Campus Ministry director, said she was somewhat anxious going into the listening session since the response from young adults on social media to the Synod seemed very mixed.
“What I witnessed through the process proves the genius of Pope Francis,” she said. “The young adults who came to the listening session did share some frustration about the current state of the Church. These hurts were heard and recorded, but then, through the Synod process, the same young adults were asked to reflect on what they love about the Church. In these areas, the young adults shared about why they remain committed to Catholic Church — they remain for the truth present in her teachings, the beauty present within her churches and liturgies, and the goodness offered through true Christian community.”
After the listening session had ended, Pometto saw young adults continue their small group conversations in the lobby. “I heard laughter, joy and camaraderie — no negativity at all,” she said. “As I drove away, many of the young adults remained outside in the parking lot, continuing to be in community.”
And to Pometto, that proves the genius of Pope Francis in this synod process.
“It is so easy to be negative on social media — to rant and rave at a screen that seems disconnected from a person,” she said. “But when we take that negativity and share it with another person in a loving and safe environment, that negativity can be transformed. And this truth really shouldn’t surprise us as Catholics. Isn’t this at the heart of the Paschal mystery? The Paschal mystery is precisely about the fact that God can walk with us through the negative, through the confusion, through the frustration, and bring us out on the other side into resurrection. For me, I saw that lived out in a new way through this Synod process with the young adults of our Archdiocese.”
The Synod on Synodality is a two-year process of listening and dialogue commissioned by Pope Francis and culminating in 2023. The theme is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”
For information about the local Synod process, visit www.archgh.org/synod.