(First in a series about the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops)

On the weekend of Oct. 9-10, 2021, Pope Francis launched the a worldwide journey for the Church towards the 16th annual Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, themed: “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.” It will include consultation in three phases: diocesan, national and continental, and will culminate in Rome in October of 2022.

Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V. opened the diocesan phase of the Synod in the Fall River Diocese on Oct. 17, 2021 with a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River. The bishop celebrated a special votive Mass of the Holy Spirit Whose guidance and inspiration was sought for a fruitful synodal experience and outcome.

The word Synod was “Greek” to most of us before last fall. In fact, the word comes from the Greek and has been translated roughly to mean assembling on a common road, journeying together. Ecclesial synods date back to the early days of the Church. Revived by the Second Vatican Council, synods have been assemblies, primarily of bishops meeting with experts on specific subjects, to consult, achieve consensus and develop direction. Synods during the past few years have addressed subjects such as the Christian Family, Consecrated Life and Catechesis as well as concerns within geographical areas such as Africa and South America.

What’s different with the current Synod is that Pope Francis asked for an extended period of consultation involving as many people as possible from the parish and community level. “The Spirit asks us to listen to the questions, concerns and hopes of every Church, people and nation. And to listen to the world, to the challenges and changes it sets before us,” said the pope in his homily opening the Synod last October. 

  Commenting on synodality in his pastoral letter, “Journeying Together,” focused on revitalization of our local Church, Bishop da Cunha emphasized broad participation: “Conversations and efforts regarding revitalization must include all those who comprise the People of God in a particular place. Yet, this also requires that People of God step forward to be part of these efforts.”

Stepping forward, being heard and hearing others is what the Synod is all about. “The journey of synodality is the journey that God wants from His Church in the third millennium,” says Pope Francis.