By John E. Kearns Jr., Diocesan Director of Communications
FALL RIVER —The Diocese of Fall River has submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops its report for the Synod on Synodality, providing a summary of key themes and takeaways from local consultative outreach earlier this year. The diocesan submission will become part of a comprehensive national report prepared for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in 2023.
The Report is available in its entirety on the diocesan website, fallriverdiocese.org.
Last fall, Pope Francis opened the multi-year, multi-phased Synod of Bishops with a theme of synodality itself, “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.” Its intent is to provide for the Church worldwide a process of praying, listening, dialogue, and discernment which will culminate in the 2023 Assembly.
Its first phase was to feature broad consultation on the diocesan/parish level through which all members of the Church and even former members were invited to gather to listen and to share on how the Church “journeys together” to carry out its sacred mission of proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples.
From January through April of this year, almost 5,000 persons in the Diocese of Fall River participated in at least one of these synod consultations offered mostly through parishes in a variety of formats: in-person and virtual as well as through surveys and questionnaires, both online and printed. Synod outreach was multi-lingual. Beyond parishes, diocesan consultations also took place at and with other entities including local universities, spiritual and community groups, and interfaith/ecumenical coalitions to facilitate widespread participation in the synod process.
The input and responses from the consultations were forwarded in individual reports and from these submissions the diocesan revitalization committee assembled last year by Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., synthesized the one, final Diocese of Fall River Synod on Synodality Report, limited by instruction to no more than 10 pages.
“I am grateful for the opportunity the Holy Father presented to the Church for all of us to participate in the synodal process,” said diocesan Vicar General Father David C. Frederici, who served as the point person for the synod in the diocese.
“A special thanks to so many in our diocese who were involved in the process, from those who served on the revitalization committee, to our Parish Ambassadors who gave much of their time with the two diocesan gatherings as well as the planning and implementation of the synodal process that took place in the parishes. Of course, all of those who participated in person, via Zoom or through surveys.
“As Bishop da Cunha stated in his recent pastoral letter, the Church is about journeying together, walking with one another as we seek to grow in faith and love of the Lord and to live as His disciples in our communities and homes. The report shares where the people of our diocese are in this journey. It shares the joys and disappointments, and the successes and struggles being experienced by people in our diocese. All of this helps us to better understand how we can better support one another as a Church and continue to walk with one another more effectively as we seek to live our lives as Christian disciples.”
Two sections provide the essence of the Report. The first of these, “Journeying Together Today,” centers positively on the ways in which parishes and communities in the diocese are already proclaiming the Gospel together: the Mass, existing ministries, small groups, and communal gatherings, and service and outreach efforts.
The other key area is “Challenges, Observations & Needs,” which summarizes points and areas that emerged consistently from the consultation sessions calling for greater attention to strengthen collective efforts to share the Gospel and build community. Among these are focusing on engagement with young people; deepening understanding of the need to be completely rooted in Christ; improving communication and in-person connection, especially after COVID; becoming more welcoming with a focus on specific populations in the Church; expanding opportunities for catechesis and formation for all ages and communities; ensuring transparency at all levels; and more administrative support for priests to enable them to focus on spiritual and pastoral responsibilities.
Father Frederici points out it is important to keep in mind that “the synodal process is not a one-and-done event. Rather, Pope Francis is calling us to incorporate synodality into the everyday life of the Church. The current process is helping us to learn how to do that and I look forward to the results from the coming Synod of Bishops.”