One Church, Two Synodal Gatherings

by Marianne T. Duddy-Burke

As this blog goes to press, in two cities more than 5,000 miles from each other, flights will be landing, hotels will be checked into, local hosts will undergo a final flurry of preparations as Church leaders gather to pray, deliberate, and work for the future of our Church.

In Rome, Italy, this gathering will be the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, a gathering of the bishops who head most of the worlds’ national bishops’ conferences, papal advisors, and a few carefully-vetted laypeople who will work to create the agenda and foundational documents for a follow-on, larger Synod that will occur, again in Rome, a year later. This too, will be a gathering of bishops (although many more), papal advisors, and carefully-vetted laypeople.

In calling for these Synods on the Family, Pope Francis said he wanted to address “the pastoral challenge of the family in the context of evangelization.”

Around the world, there was tremendous hope that the new Vatican openness that had been the hallmark of Francis’ early reign would carry forward in an event that was more dialogic and engaged more of the Church. Indeed, when it became known that the Vatican has asked for local input into the preparation of Synod documents, and was seeking feedback on particular pastoral challenges, tens of thousands of Catholics wrote soulful reflections about their experiences, challenges, and hopes which they shared with their shepherds in their own dioceses and nations, as well as with those in the Vatican.

However, as initial Synod documents began to be disseminated, and as the list of participants was released, many hopes were dashed. It appears that there is little openness to hear the myriad faithful voices calling for substantive changes to the ways in which peoples’ lives are affected by current teachings and pastoral practices.

The challenge the bishops are called to address is how to gain greater acceptance and conformity in an era that is seen as increasingly secular. While the results, of course, cannot be known until the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod, it seems that changes in pastoral response to the many kinds of families that comprise our Church will continue to come from how we care for one another.

Let us pray that the Spirit of Wisdom and Holy Humility will be a powerful force as these men deliberate issues that impact billions of souls all over the globe.

A continent and a half away, the DignityUSA Board of Directors will be meeting in Seattle, Washington, at the site of the 2015 Convention. We, too, will be preparing for the larger assembly, as well as considering project plans and budgets for the year ahead. At this gathering, we will welcome Lauren Carpenter (Baltimore, MD, Young Adult Caucus) and Brian Kelly (San Diego, CA) as new Board members, and look forward to the new ideas, talents, and energy that they will contribute.

We also give thanks to retiring Board members Deb Myers and Victor Postemski for their vision and hard work over their many years of service. Deb and Victor helped guide the building of two communities DignityUSA had decided were in need of more attention and focus over the last four years: our Women’s and Young Adult Caucuses. Under their leadership, both of these communities have been revitalized and have full calendars of activities and deep relationships across the country. While both Victor and Deb contributed in many other ways, this legacy will be felt for many years to come.

I ask that you keep DignityUSA’s leadership in your prayers as we begin a new year.

During this year, DignityUSA’s 46th, we will work to address the many challenges and opportunities that will present themselves to those who believe in justice and equality for LGBT Catholics. Your support sustains us all and is a vital component of the work of Dignity.

Photo via flickr user vgm8383