Participants in the assembly of the Synod of Bishops gather in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican before the first working session of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops October 4, 2023. CNS photo/Lola Gomez

Listening to discern the Spirit calling

By  Catherine Pead, Catholic Register Special
  • October 5, 2023

The Synod on Synodality is the most important moment in our Church since Vatican II. And yet, a surprising number of lay Catholics still know nothing about this momentous process currently taking place in our Church.

The process was launched by Pope Francis in October 2021, and invites everyone to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church, especially through the voices of those on the periphery. It has been an unprecedented and remarkable process that involved first bishops in every diocese in the world listening to their own people; then synthesizing what they heard into national summaries; then bringing those national summaries into a synthesis with other national conferences who shared a common continental context.

At every stage, lay people were involved, reports were published and commented on. In a Church not known for its transparency, this was refreshing. Of course, it was not perfect, and you had to know where to look to follow along. This may explain why so many lay people are still unaware of the depth and breadth of the exercise.

As we approach a critical moment in the process — the gathering of bishops and other synod participants in Rome from Oct 4-29, for the first of two general assemblies on this topic, (the second will take place in October 2024) — Concerned Lay Catholics is inviting lay Catholics in Canada to engage with the process. To pray, reflect and learn so that we can discern together where the Spirit is calling the Church in the Third Millennium.

Concerned Lay Catholics, an organization formed in Canada to affirm the laity’s role of co-responsibility in the Church, has been committed to promoting the synodal process from the beginning. In 2022, we held synodal listening sessions for lay people — 15 in all with eight different demographic groups — from across the country. We sent a report on what we heard to our Canadian bishops and to the Vatican (

In our synodal sessions, many lay Catholics told us they are frustrated with a Church that does not listen to them, and does not communicate with them. People told us they learn more about what is happening in the Church from the media than from their own parishes and dioceses. And what they do hear often seems quite out of touch with their families’ lived reality.

This is not to say that good things are not happening — there are pockets of hope. The synod on synodality is one such hopeful sign. We are praying that lay people’s voices and experiences will become more a part of the theological and pastoral reflection of our Church’s leadership.

A delegation of Concerned Lay Catholics in Canada, Mark Guevarra, Catherine Pead and Christine Way Skinner, will travel to Rome to participate in a parallel synodal assembly of lay-led groups live, in person and online from around the world. We are meeting to consider Human Rights in the Emerging Catholic Church.

While in Rome, Mark, Cathie and Christine will be posting news and reflections on the CLC website and social media. We hope to interview some key figures who are gathered in Rome for this historic moment in the life of our Church as well as share our observations of this once in a lifetime experience. Watch for more from us in the coming weeks.

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