November, 6, 2021 | St. Matthew Catholic Church
For Pastors/Administrators and their Guests
The Archdiocese of San Antonio echoes the call of Pope Francis to live as a Synodal Church! It is with this desire of the Holy Father that we announce an important step in our local Church’s synodal journey— Assembly Convocation 2021: Living a Synodal Church. Assembly brings the people of the Archdiocese together to express our communion with one another, our participation in the sacramental life of the Church, and our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ. By a special Grace from God, our seventh Assembly will be hosted during the beginning of this journey of Synodal transformation convoked by Pope Francis. For the first time, the Assembly will be part of the annual Clergy convocation as a sign of pastors’ unity with the people they serve on the synodal journey.
From 2015-2019, the Archdiocese hosted its largest annual conference for parish leaders and Catholic school teachers known as the Assembly. At this full-day conference, attendees enjoyed talks from a variety of renowned Catholic speakers, Mass with the Archbishop, opportunities for confession and adoration, and an exhibition of organizations and vendors offering Catholic resources and merchandise. Assembly served as an important annual renewal for Catholic communities to gather and build a Catholic culture of encounter and accompaniment.
In 2020, the global pandemic changed the way society operated and continues to keep us creative in the ways we outreach. Empowered with hope while aligned with the safety recommendations at the time, the Archdiocese hosted the annual Assembly entirely as a digital event, live streaming across social media and on Catholic Television of San Antonio. We gathered our Catholic communities across the 19 counties of the Archdiocese on a new online platform, a digital stage for evangelization and catechesis. Assembly 2020 changed the way we approached ministry, allowing us to be more creative in the ways we accompanied our brothers and sisters. As we move forward into the future full of hope, we remain open to the Spirit’s call for renewal and transformation.
The Synodal Process
The Archdiocesan synodal process is aligned with the Diocesan Phase of the world-wide synod leading towards the 16th General Assembly of Bishops in October 2023 on the theme: For a Synodal Church: Communion. Participation. and Mission convoked by Pope Francis. Locally, it is conveyed and led by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, M.Sp.S. in special gatherings of clergy and faithful to offer him assistance in setting the direction for the future of our local Church. The outcomes do not include addressing doctrinal questions or Church teaching. Instead, it will be focused on pastoral planning, touching on all elements of the local Church. Before discerning its implementation, the Archbishop, along with the Synod Steering Committee, will listen to recommendations and suggestions of the faithful.
To have a Synod means ‘ to walk together.’ A Synod is a dynamic diocesan planning activity. While it is centrally enabled (by a bishop or the Pope), it is also locally guided by leaders at every level (pastors, parish leaders, and the faithful). The Synod strives for listening to the real questions and authentic needs of the local Church and sifts for the real issues with a wider vision where subsidiarity and creativity are greatly needed, encouraged, and embraced.
A New Approach
Immediately after Assembly each year, the priests of the Archdiocese gather for an annual, three-day retreat called the Clergy Convocation. In 2021, the Archbishop desired that the Assembly be transformed into an opportunity to gather pastors with their communities in a space for worship and dialogue for the opening day of the clergy convocation. To accomplish this, the Archdiocese has combined two annual events—Assembly and the Clergy Convocation—to create Assembly Convocation 2021: Living a Synodal Church. This will serve as a unique opportunity for parish leaders to come together with their pastors on a synodal journey. Parish leaders will have the opportunity to join their pastors for Mass with the Archbishop, a keynote address on the theme of synodality, and two small group discussions. After Assembly Convocation, it is the Archbishop’s desire that pastors return to their parishes with the formula for implementing synodal Assembly Convocations at their parishes with their communities.
Who is Invited?
Assembly looks different in 2021 than it has in previous years. As the first day of the annual Clergy Convocation, priests will join together with parish leaders to celebrate the gifts of the local church and the people of God. For the first time, laity will be invited to join for the opening day of the convocation. The participation of the laity in small group discussions at the parish level is vital to the synodal journey on which we are now embarking. For that to happen, it is necessary to have a ‘pilot’ experience that we hope it is replicated at Parish level by the Pastor and the leaders he asks to accompany him on this day. Pastors have been asked to invite four parish leaders from their respective parishes to accompany them for the first day of the Assembly Convocation. All priests are expected to attend because this marks the first day of their annual retreat.
What is the Purpose?
Assembly Convocation is a one part of the larger Synodal process convoked by Pope Francis through Archbishop Gustavo and all the Bishops for each of their (Arch)Dioceses. The synodal process in the Archdiocese of San Antonio began with the Opening Mass at the Cathedral of San Fernando on Sunday, Oct. 17. It will continue through this special iteration of the Archdiocesan Assembly on November 6 at St. Matthew Catholic Church where pastors will gather with their parish leaders for dialogue. In the months following Assembly, parishes will conduct additional listening and interactive sessions with the People of God throughout the Archdiocese. More details will be forthcoming. At the end of a 2-year period of reflection on synodality, a report will be sent to the Vatican, offering insight into the needs of the Church at this time.
How Can I Participate?
All people of the Archdiocese are invited to participate in Assembly Convocation 2021 in new and unique ways. First, we invite the faithful to read the International Theological Commission document Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church. This document summarizes the findings that undertook a study on synodality in the life and mission of the Church today.
Second, we invite the faithful to pray for the synodal process in the Archdiocese of San Antonio and throughout the entire world as convened by Pope Francis. Tune in to CTSA on Facebook or YouTube on November 6, 2021 at 8 AM to participate in the live-streamed Mass celebrated by Archbishop Gustavo joined with priests from throughout the Archdiocese.
A third way to participate is to join in the conversation at upcoming Archdiocesan events. The synodal process will be infused into all future events and gatherings. Visit the Department for Pastoral Ministries calendar to learn about upcoming opportunities where you can participate in the synodal journey.