Hello from the airplane en route to Philadelphia. Besides feeling cramped from the long flight, I am immensely grateful for all the blessings of this week in Rome to support the Catholic Church’s Synod on Synodality 2023. First of all, I have encountered many wonderful people, each one doing good in the world – for women, for the marginalized, for a Church that is more welcoming and more faithful to the Gospel. It always heartens me to meet others who are “rowing in the same direction.” I am not alone in making the world more merciful. Many other people of good will are doing their part.
This leads to my second “fruit” of the week’s pilgrimage: relationships are where it’s at. Being “synodal” means walking with one another and listening to the Spirit in us and in the other. When we get to know one another and hear each other’s experiences, we find the sacred! The conversation itself is where the holiness lies. I think we Americans often lose sight of the truth that community is an important place to meet God. This week, I talked with students, community organizers, theologians, restaurant servers, delegates, parish ministers and educators. Each one opened my eyes to mercy, kindness and creativity I would never have known otherwise, because each one embodied for me a different aspect of Love.
This leads to the week’s third “fruit:” the mission of Cranaleith has been affirmed for me. As synod theologian, Sr. Marie Kolbe Zamora, told me at dinner Tuesday, “Sharing experiences, giving people the opportunity to reflect together, that is the most important thing. The theology is secondary. In fact, it may get in the way. Keep doing what you are doing [at Cranaleith].” As Cranaleith celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary year, Deep Listening seems ever more the best course. Cranaleith has been living synodality since 1998; we are a beacon and a model for the world. Thank you for being part of this mission with all of us in the Cranaleith community!
Here are a few highlights of my activities in the last few days of the trip. Thursday morning, Maureen O’Connell and I worked on preparing level 2 of the formation program we began offering Philadelphia parishes in September. “Growing in Co-Responsibility for Mission,” which we will pilot in January, will allow those who have attended “How to Become a Synodal Parish” to form a cohort and learn more about the complexities of moving a community through a synodal paradigm shift. (To learn more about the program for your parish, please email me at email@example.com)
On Friday, I assisted Maureen, Sarah Pericich-Lopez and Lisa Amman train the Fordham students we had met with on Monday and Wednesday to witness to what they experienced in Rome back at Fordham and to animate others to participate in deep listening. I learned so much from Maureen, Sarah and Lisa about helping others become community leaders around a vision. I was delighted to interact with the students again; their good hearts and commitment to a welcoming Church give me hope. I was asked to answer their questions about facilitating group spiritual discernment, which, of course, is a regular part of my ministry. The students’ insightful questions indicated their rich potential for this kind of ministry. (Future enrollees in Cranaleith’s spiritual direction formation program? J)
In between these events, I spent hours talking with other pigrims from across the US. I have made fast friends. Their insights and good works hearten me. Cranaleith has many new allies!
In the photos with this blog, you will see the joy of shared meals, a new friend with me on a Roman street and a brief video of me explaining the welcoming embrace built into the architecture of St. Peter’s Square. There are also a) a video of the Discerning Deacons group singing “Receiver Her in the Lord,” St. Paul’s words about St. Phoebe, a deacon, in Romans 16, and b) a video of Fordham students singing about what their “Conversation in the Spirit” inspired in them, “Veni, Sancti Spiritus.”
If you wish to read more about the formal agenda of Discerning Deacons in Rome this past week, please enjoy this blog, Contributing to our global Church as synod ambassadors written by Jane Cavanaugh & Rhonda Miska.