Diocese of Saint Cloud Releases Synod 2021–2023* Diocesan Synthesis

The Diocese of Saint Cloud released its Synod 2021–2023* Diocesan Synthesis with the October issue of The Central Minnesota Catholic.

What is this all about?

In October 2021, Pope Francis announced the inauguration of the diocesan phase of the 16th Synod of Bishops. The theme of the synod was “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” This Synod—a process of discernment and dialogue—aimed to be more inclusive of all, not just involving the hierarchy of the Church. Pope Francis stressed the importance of reaching out directly to lay people, the marginalized, and those of other faiths.

The Synod process in the Diocese of Saint Cloud began in October 2021, with the main public listening stage occurring between January and June 2022. Bishop Donald Kettler and the Diocesan Synod Team reached out to every parish and cluster in the diocese with the expectation that all would participate, supplying them with materials for engagement. Though not all parishes/clusters chose to participate, many did. In addition to the outreach to every parish/cluster, listeners sought out responses from religious communities, those on the margins, and those of other faiths to get their perspective and responses to the questions created by the Diocesan Synod Team. With the help of 100 trained listeners, 4,000+ people were consulted via group and individual listening sessions, as well as a self-guided online survey. The topics posed to the participants focused around six areas:

1.  Hopes, dreams and visions for the Church
2.  Ways the Church can grow in inspiring trust
3.  Wounds that need the Church’s attention
4.  What can be learned from one another in participating in this synod
5.  One thing they would like to share with Pope Francis
6.  Anything further they would like to share

After all the responses were gathered, tabulated and analyzed, the Diocesan Synod Team created a synthesis report that was sent to The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as well as to the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican. Due to the small size requirement for the report set by the USCCB, the Diocesan Synod Team produced only a “big picture” synthesis, highlighting main themes, areas of convergence and divergence, and some direct quotes to exemplify the thoughts of as many participants as possible.

Next steps?

Through a special process, members of the commissions charged with working with the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops will help receive, analyze and synthesize the material. Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops, with the help of select theologians, will then listen to what has been said by millions across the world and try to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church at this time. If this synod follows the general process of previous synods, documents will eventually be drawn up that include an overview of what was learned in the process as well as lay out significant theological and spiritual guidance for next steps for the direction of the Church. At the local level, steps are already being taken to use the information gleaned to help guide the next steps for the diocese.

*The synod was first scheduled to conclude in 2023 but has since been extended by Pope Francis through 2024.

Information was shared by Sister Janine Mettling, who was on the Diocesan Synod Team.