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On Synod fatigue

From The Office of Youth Ministry

Synod. Synod. Synod.

Hopefully, you have heard this word hundreds of times. By now you might even be tired of hearing the word, and if you’re involved in Church at any level, you might even agree that you’re tired of the entire process!

In May 2021, the Holy Father convoked a global process which would allow absolutely anyone to have their say on their experience of the Catholic Church. Every synod is meant to inform Church leaders in their shepherding and guiding of those in their care, but this Global Synod 2021–2023 focuses the attention of the lay faithful on walking together and listening to God.

An enormous amount of effort has been put into bringing us together to facilitate discussion, listening and documenting experiences and ideas.

For persons active in the life of their parish, this has been meetings and training sessions, at a time when being in the same space posed a challenge.

We had Synod Masses, Synod trainings, Synod consultations, more Synod consultations, and Synod reports.

What we ended up with was a wealth of valuable information, but also in many cases, a lack of energy for anything else other than this Synod, sometimes even a lack of energy for the Synod itself.

The planning and organising have left some feeling weary of the synodal process on a visceral level. The tasks of executing such a widely open process, in which the Church would hear not just from those sitting inside the pews [virtual and all], but from those outside the Church walls, led to feelings that parish life has been overtaken by this Synod.

Then, one realises that we are only six months into a two-year [initial] process and some persons are still unaware of the tectonic movement occurring within the Church as a whole.

This Synod and its theme, Synodality, is meant to tax all of us. Consider what it would have taken Moses to bring all of Israel together to leave Egypt, as one people, journeying together.  The many persons with various roles, helping each other along the way while still unclear of their destination.

Metaphorically, we have only taken our first steps out of Egypt, and we will need to change our mindsets and behaviours to make this journey.

In moments like this, it is important we remember the words of our Lord, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:28–29).

If we dream of a youthful Church, then we the Church, must commit to listening, discernment, and action more than diatribes and monologues that speak about youth without empathy and accountability for our role in their circumstances.

During this synodal process, the Church took a moment to listen, without judgement or ego. The Church took on a posture of deep listening so we could truly hear what everyone had to say about us. This is how Church should always be.

The Office of Youth Ministry encourages all groups, parishes, and communities to continue engaging young people in a synodal process.

You may be tired. Some young people may seem bored, but we are on a journey to ensure that every young person knows that there are people willing and excited to walk with them as we journey together to the promised land.

To the many young people, we have listened to during this journey, we say thank you. We encourage you to take the time to integrate synodal listening and group discernment into your parish youth ministry.

Our young people yearn to be heard and, if never before, this should be the first of many. Let us listen because God wants us to, and not because we have a report to write.

Many of us feel the weight of Synod 2021–2023, but please let us not stop listening to our Church, especially the young members.

Let us rest, when necessary, but never stop listening.