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 | Staff Reports

For a Synodal Church

On Oct. 10, Pope Francis opened the worldwide synodal process that will culminate in 2023. Synods of Bishops have been a regular life of the Church since the Second Vatican Council; this synod is unique in the post-conciliar age in that each diocese will hold local meetings of the synod to understand how the Holy Spirit is speaking to the people of God and to bring those reflections to Rome for the final meeting of the synodal process.

The synod is tasked with discussing the nature of the Church as a fundamentally synodal reality. Pope Francis introduced the idea of synodality, saying, “Celebrating a synod means walking on the same road, walking together.” Francis continued, saying, “Let us look at Jesus. First, he encounters the rich man on the road; he then listens to his questions, and finally he helps him discern what he must do to inherit eternal life.”

This call to explore the nature of the Church may be unsettling to some, and Pope Francis acknowledged that, saying: “Today, as we begin this synodal process, let us begin by asking ourselves — all of us, pope, bishops, priests, religious and laity — whether we, the Christian community, embody this ‘style’ of God, who travels the paths of history and shares in the life of humanity. Are we prepared for the adventure of this journey? Or are we fearful of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: ‘It’s useless’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way’?”

Here in Spokane, the synod was opened by Bishop Thomas Daly on Oct. 17 at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral.

Bishop Daly echoed Pope Francis’ call for the entire people of God to participate, saying: “The mission of the Church requires the people, the entire people of God, be on a journey together, with each member playing his or her crucial role and the Church increasingly realizes that synodality is the path for the entire people of God. It's clear that pope Francis wants this consultation to extend beyond the usual suspects, you might say.”

Bishop Daly spoke to the voices we often hear, clergy, professors, diocesan bureaucrats and columnists, and he said, “Those people are included in their input and are welcome. But my sense is we already know what they think. Now the entire Church, the entire people of God, is asked to play a part.”

To this end, the diocese has begun the process of consultation by appointing a coordination team for the synodal process. The team includes Sister Sharon Bongiorno, FSPA; Father Darrin Connall, VG; Mary Haugen; and Deacon Kelly Stewart. Sister Sharon has a long history of pastoral service and leadership in a variety of ministerial settings throughout the Diocese of Spokane. Father Darrin Connall is the vicar general. Mary Haugen has significant experience in facilitating pastoral planning in a parish setting. Deacon Kelly Stewart is director of deacons for the diocese.

Individual listening sessions will be coordinated at the deanery level by a team of parishioners (laity and clergy) organized by the particular dean. Our diocese is divided into seven deaneries, three in the Spokane area and four in the other regions of the diocese. Once the deanery leadership teams are assembled, their names will be published on the diocesan website. Along with listening sessions for the clergy and laity at the deanery level, meetings will be held with the seminarians, deacons, and religious sisters of the diocese. Catholic schools, hospitals and Catholic Charities will also have the opportunity to participate in the local synod. Consultation questions will be taken from the synod handbook provided by the Holy See.

As the process continues, keep apprised of listening session dates, options for online participation in the synod and more at

Prayer for a Synodal Church

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,

as we gather together in Your name.

With You alone to guide us,

make Yourself at home in our hearts;

Teach us the way we must go

and how we are to pursue it.

We are weak and sinful;

do not let us promote disorder.

Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path

nor partiality influence our actions.

Let us find in You our unity

so that we may journey together to eternal life

and not stray from the way of truth

and what is right.

All this we ask of You,

who are at work in every place and time,

in the communion of the Father and the Son,

forever and ever.

Timeline for the Synodal Process

  • Oct. 9-10, 2021: Pope Francis opens the three-phase event from the Vatican.
  • Oct. 2021-April 2022: Phase 1: The synodal process is held in Catholic dioceses

Each diocese undertakes consultation meetings with local Catholics and hosts its own "pre-synodal" gathering to produce a summary to submit to the national bishops' conference.

In "a period of discernment," the national conference reviews the texts received from the local dioceses and composes its own document to submit to the Vatican's office for the Synod of Bishops. Vatican officials will create a first draft of the synod's instrumentum laboris, or working document, from the submitted texts by September 2022.

  • Sept. 2022-March 2023: Phase 2: Bishops meet at the continental level

In the second phase of the process, bishops gather on each continent to create texts about their discussions and submit them to the Vatican. A second draft of the instrumentum will be created from these texts and released by June 2023.

  • Oct. 2023: Phase 3: The bishops meet in Rome for the final phase

The theme of the final phase is: “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”

By Faith Catholic