This press release issued by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests highlights a unique collaborative program that aims to reach out to those on the margins of the synodal process. Those interested in learning more about the program can contact Project Coordinator Cathy Harmon-Christian or explore the resources available at the AUSCP website—Ed.
“Have you been invited into synodal activities in your local church?” That was a question asked in a mailing sent to members and friends of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. It continued, “Or do you minister to groups or individuals who feel left out?”
The mailing promoted a cooperative effort of the AUSCP and the Catholic Committee of the South for a kind of do-it-yourself synodal program.
“It’s not a competition with the diocese, but an effort to reach out to the margins,” said Cathy Harmon-Christian, Project Coordinator. Since early invitations went out, she has been receiving calls and emails, and helping people get into groups or individuals gather a group of their own. “It’s grown exponentially,” she said.
“It is in direct response to the call of Pope Francis for mounting a synodal process across the globe in continuing to build up the inclusive, safe and loving catholic church” said a joint statement from Glenmary Father Les Schmidt and Holy Cross Father Stephen Newton. Schmidt is bishops’ liaison for the Catholic Committee of the South; Newton is AUSCP executive director. “To that end, we are joining together to ensure a path for groups and individuals who might otherwise not have a voice in the process.”
“This is for people on the edge, in the LGBTQ community for instance,” said Newton, “but also for people at the center who may live and worship in a diocese with limited synodal participation.”
They are inviting persons and organizations to host a local cluster of “The Gathering: Toward a Synodal Church.” The process, for a facilitator and eight to 10 participants, focuses on the path of synodality, journeying together, and the purpose of the synod.”
Participants will be asked “How journeying together, which takes place today on different levels . . . allows the Church to proclaim the Gospel in accordance to the mission entrusted to her; and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow as a synodal Church?”
The joint letter concludes that the purpose of these gatherings is not to produce documents, but “to plant dreams, draw forth prophesies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands.”
Harmon-Christian has led several groups. She says “The gathering itself is a wonderful blessing, hearing what people have to say. There’s holiness there.”
Comments from the clusters will be collected, along with information about the group make-up and when and where the sessions were held. Names of the participants will not be included, according to Harmon-Christian. “We’ll share what we receive with the local bishops if they want to hear us, and we will take them to the Dicastery in Rome.”
One of the early, emerging trends is “a deeply felt call for inclusivity in the Church,” she said.