The Mass on Oct. 17 to kick off the local participation in the 2023 Synod of Bishops is just the first step of what will be happening in the Diocese of Wilmington, one of two diocesan organizers said this week. Father Glenn Evers, the associate moderator of the curia, took on this assignment only recently, but said he is ready to get to work throughout Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
The theme of the 2023 gathering is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” and that will be the guiding principle behind local efforts, Father Evers said.
“The thrust of the synod for the bishops throughout the world is for us to become a synodal church. The idea behind the synodal church is the word ‘synod,’ which means ‘journeying together,’” he said.
Pope Francis is calling all Catholics to look more deeply into how it is that we are journeying as a church, and where it is that the Holy Spirit is calling us, according to Father Evers.
To be called to Communion, “good, holy communication” is necessary, so the pope is emphasizing the process of a local synod, he added.
Although plans are not complete, Father Evers has envisioned how he sees the local component playing out.
“We’ll have a semi-liturgical environment where we’ll come together in smaller groups, or perhaps larger groups that will be broken out into smaller groups,” he said. “Together, we’ll reflect on what has God done for us, and what is God doing for us currently?”
The pope wants every Catholic to have a voice, and to that end, the Diocese of Wilmington wants to reach as many of the faithful as possible. A synod team will be established and will identify the best ways to provide a voice to everybody. The local process will tap into all previously established channels, such as parishes, schools and Catholic Charities outlets, Father Evers said.
“Wherever the Catholic Church has a footprint, we want to make sure it also has listening ears,” he said.
It is not envisioned as a series of sessions for complaints and grievances. The priest wants it to be more of an opportunity for prayerful listening to find out where God is in our lives and the church, and where God is working in our midst. The faithful may identify where it is that God invites us to reach out and expand his presence and to invite others to know him.
“It always begins with the goodness of God,” Father Evers said.
Some dissatisfactions may come up, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, he continued. “We do recognize we’re not perfect. We are on a journey. We’re not in heaven yet.”
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the short-term goal of local efforts is to “have successful diocesan consultations in a synodal spirit reflecting on the state of the church in ‘journeying together.’” The long-term goal is to “re-orient the local church toward an inherent synodal attitude in decision-making processes through communion, participation, and mission.”
“The calling of this synod is well-aligned with the challenge Pope Francis offered his brother bishops to ‘dialogue fearlessly,’” according to a document provided to local dioceses by the USCCB. “The Holy Father has made a request of the people of God to participate as fully and authentically as possible in the synodal process.”
After the listening sessions are complete, the diocesan team must create a 10-page report to be submitted to the USCCB by the end of April 2022. The bishops’ conference will author its own report, a summary of reports compiled around the United States, that will be presented at the 2023 synod.
Father Evers said he feels comfortable leading this effort with Dosman because in his current work in the diocese, he already does a lot of listening. In addition to his work at the chancery, he is administrator of St. Joseph Parish on French Street in Wilmington and the director of the Office for Cultural Ministries. In that role, he works with those groups to find out where God is in their ministries and where they need to grow.
This phase of the 2023 has a beginning and an end, but Father Evers said it could provide a blueprint for future efforts in the Diocese of Wilmington.
“The idea is that this isn’t something we should just do once, but we’re called to be a synodal church,” he said. “We’re called to always journey together.”