Synodality: A way to be Church

By Bishop W. Shawn McKnight

In this issue of The Catholic Missourian, the report of the diocesan commission for the synodal process is published for all to read.

This report has been sent, as requested, to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for the next stage of discernment leading ultimately to the global Synod of Bishops in 2023.

I am grateful for the members of the diocesan commission who planned, organized and implemented numerous in-person listening sessions throughout the diocese with online opportunities for as many people as possible to participate in the process, and who drafted the report now completed.

I encourage all of us, especially the clergy and lay leadership of our parishes, to read the report with the challenges it presents and reflect upon our own experience (or lack of experience) of “synodality” in the Diocese of Jefferson City.

This report comes to us as we continue the implementation of our three-year diocesan pastoral plan to strengthen support for the life and mission of the Church through active stewardship, the practice of co-responsibility, and the formation of our parish communities as centers of charity and sanctuaries of mercy.

Over the next several months, every parish will be asked to conduct a review of the hopes and accomplishments of their second-year pastoral plan objectives with an eye to the third and final year ahead of us.

The results of the synodal process echo and affirm many objectives of the parish pastoral plans:

1) A pillar of the spirituality of stewardship is hospitality. Many comments in the listening sessions confirmed the need for our parish communities to give greater attention to how they can be experienced as a place of genuine welcoming.

2) Co-responsibility is the mutual recognition and respect for the differing roles and responsibilities that everyone has in fulfilling the mission of the Church. The results of the listening sessions suggest we must ask ourselves: Does our current way of discerning the more important pastoral decisions facing our parishes exhibit the synodality (i.e., walking together in the faith) as expressed in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council?

3) The synodal process highlighted the need to reach people who participate marginally (if at all) in Church life, especially our youth. Our parishes become beacons for our young people when the parishes are experienced more as sanctuaries of mercy and provide more opportunities for charity.

Our Church nationally has also embarked upon a process of Eucharistic renewal, which will culminate for us in our diocese with our expected re-dedication of the Cathedral sometime this winter.

Our communion with one another in faith, worship and charity is manifested principally in our celebrations of the Mass (especially with the bishop surrounded by his priests and deacons, and with the participation of the people), but also in the bonds that tie our parishes together in support of one another in our common mission to teach the faith and foster fellowship.

And this is why the rural character of our diocese deserves recognition in our discernment of where we go from here. Rural life treasures the farm as a unique place for the family to unite around a common purpose and the necessity of depending on each other.

Living, working and praying together regularly builds community, and everyone has their own share in its fruits and labors. In like manner, the Church was created by our Lord to be a family that works together and supports one another.

By sharing our talents and gifts, we strengthen our bonds with one another and our shared faith in God. Walking together, we divide our burdens and multiple our joys.

As we prepare for the implementation of our final year of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, I look forward to the new horizons that await our local Church as we continue to discern the path the Lord has in store for us as a diocese, a nation and as the Church Universal.