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

 FALL RIVER — The synodal process does not lend itself to a single descriptive sentence or catch phrase. The Global Synod themes of communion, participation and mission, however, give helpful insight. What is most important is that as many people as possible — those in the Church, those outside, the active and inactive — are heard from and listened to.  

Communion calls all — laity, consecrated and ordained — together to conversations that lead to conversion to Christ and a commitment to more actively work together in Christ’s mission. 

Participation involves speaking and listening to one another. It means recognizing that everyone has something to say about Church and deserves to be heard. 

Mission points to moving forward with a common purpose based on the experience of communion and participation. This involves reaching beyond ourselves to evangelize.

How this is achieved in each local community and diocese may be different. “The Spirit will lead you,” says Pope Francis. “Do not be afraid to enter dialogue; it is the dialogue of Salvation.”   

Parish Phase of Synod Begins

The Fall River Diocese lost no time in embracing the concept of synodality. As Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., completed his pastoral letter, “Journeying Together,” last summer he committed to incorporate the synodal process as an important tool in the post-pandemic revitalization of parishes. 

The bishop named Father David Federici, Vicar of Pastoral Services, as the point person for ensuring the successful roll out of the Synod. A Revitalization Committee including members of the Diocesan Parish Council, priests and representatives from key diocesan departments had already been formed and the action began.  In early November, “ambassadors” from nearly every parish gathered in Wareham, close to the geographic midpoint of the diocese, for an in-person formation day that linked revitalization and the synodal process.

Father Thomas Washburn of the Catholic Community of Central River shared a quick history of synods and the process of gathering the thoughts of all participants in a presentation at the November Formation Day for Parish Ambassadors.

“It was somewhat like Baptism with a fire hose,” said Father Federici, “but, since that time, continued communication with these Parish Ambassadors is bringing it all together.  Parish level teams have been organizing and the first ‘consultation sessions’ are being scheduled.  Regular Zoom meetings of ambassadors and member of the diocesan team are being held.”  

Whether called assemblies, consultations, get-togethers or listening sessions, synodal meetings are anticipated at parishes throughout the diocese from now through April.  Seeking to reach as many people from as many backgrounds and life situations as possible, the synodal process will extend into the community beyond the traditional church goers, but hearing from the faithful within the parishes is the most important first step.

Parish Synod News

• Parishioners of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Orleans celebrated an Opening Mass for the Parish phase of the Synod of Sunday, January 16.  Evening, daytime and weekend consultation sessions for active and inactive parish members are being planned for February.

• The Catholic Community of Central Fall River is accepting registration for its Synod consultations on Saturday, February 12 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

• St. Ann’s Parish in Raynham sent a survey to the home of each parishioner and will hold three Saturday afternoon synodal sessions beginning January 29.

• St. Andrew Parish in Taunton will have small group discussions addressing seven questions at a meeting on Saturday January 22.

• St. Mary’s Parish in Fairhaven is training facilitators to lead discussion groups beginning in early February for which more than 25 parishioners have requested participation.