The Diocese of Wilmington kicked off the latest phase of the 2023 Synod on Synodality with listening sessions Feb. 12-13 in New Castle County, with more to follow.
Representatives from parishes in three deaneries – geographical groupings of parishes – met at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington and St. Margaret of Scotland in Glasgow to begin the process. The sessions, according to the diocese, are “a time of prayerful reflection and sharing” among members of different parishes selected by the pastors. They addressed questions about how “journeying together” is happening in local churches, and how the Holy Spirit invites us to grow in this journeying.
These were the first large-scale listening sessions in the diocese, said Father Glenn Evers, the associate moderator of the curia and a co-organizer of synod efforts locally. Two more will be held in Delaware the weekend of Feb. 19-20, and a final one is scheduled for Feb. 27 at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Easton, Md.
“This initial large-score grouping of listening sessions is to make sure we engage representatives of every parish of our diocese. The bishop is attending each of these listening sessions,” Father Evers said.
Father Evers said the diocese was “blessed” to be off to such a great start in the synod process.
“We were very pleased. I haven’t heard a single negative comment yet. Everyone had really positive things to say about it,” he said.
The synod team has identified various focus groups, including Catholic schools and Catholic Charities, that will be consulted to make sure the process has as wide representation as possible. This is a chance for people in the pews to have their voices heard by church leadership on a variety of topics. The diocesan team is hopeful that each parish will also have their own listening sessions. Those who attend the listening sessions this month could, in conjunction with their pastors, lead those, Father Evers said.
“In addition to that, we’re also going to have a virtual offering where anyone at any time can go to our YouTube channel and they can click on a link that will have a video offering of a listening session for an individual person,” he said. From there, those who participate virtually will be directed to fill out a form on the diocesan website.
“If we don’t cover every group in the diocese, they’ll have the opportunity to participate, at least in that virtual fashion.”
After May 31, when all of the consultations with the focus groups is complete, the synod team has to prepare a 10-page paper that will be submitted to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. On June 22, Bishop Koenig will hold a pre-synod gathering with the diocesan team to share what they’ve learned and to pray about the pathways forward. The 10-page report must be submitted by June 30.
The USCCB will author its own report, a summary of those it receives from dioceses around the country, that will be presented at the 2023 synod. It will be submitted to the Vatican on Aug. 15.