​Online encounter: The Fruits of Living as a Synodal Church

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Online encounter: The Fruits of Living as a Synodal Church

The Archdiocese of San Antonio invited all the people of God to join Auxiliary Bishop Michael Boulette and guest speakers Professor Rafael Luciani and Father David McCallum, SJ, from the Theology and Methodology Commissions of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops to the online encounter on January 8 hosted by Yesenia Ramirez, executive director of Catholic Television of San Antonio.

Father McCallum is a Jesuit priest and leadership educator. He serves as the founding executive director of the Program for Discerning Leadership, a special project of the General Curia of the Society of Jesus at Georgetown and the Gregorian University. The program provides leadership formation for senior Vatican officials and major superiors of religious orders in Rome, Italy, as well as internationally.

Currently, Father McCallum serves as a member of the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops Commission on Methodology, supporting the Synodal process initiative by Pope Francis, and as adjunct faculty in the Institute for Anthropology, Interdisciplinary Studies of Human Dignity and Care at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

The priest explored how we move from “I” to “we” — from individuals to a community – and the call to journey on the road together through communion, participation, and mission. He described spiritual conversation as a method of encounter, and offered an overview of the spiritual conversation method, such as how to prepare, listen, and speak.

Father McCallum explained how to conduct spiritual conversations in three rounds. In round one, each person briefly shared the fruits of prayer. In round two participants listen to how they are being consoled as a group, and each person shared how they were moved as they listened to others. Lastly, in round three, individuals assess what the Spirit seems to be saying to the group, discerning communally on what is emerging by listening to each other.

The Jesuit cleric emphasized preparing in prayer by asking several questions: Where is God calling the church today? What dream for the church is God dreaming in me? What do I love most about our church? How am I feeling called to contribute my gifts? Where am I called to foster healing, listening, reconciliation, and community?

He quotes theologian Paul Tillich, who stated, “Listening is the highest form of love.”

Four levels of listening and conversing were examined by Father McCallum. Initially, we “download,” or listen from habit, which is politeness. Next, there listening from outside, which is factual, leads to debate. Third, there is empathetic listening, or listening from within, which features dialogue. Lastly is generative, or listening from the field, which contributes to collective creativity.

“How do we listen, and where is our attention?” the Jesuit priest quizzed. He encouraged contemplative listening, when people make space for God and the other. This involves being available and present, listening with the head and heart, being aware of the Spirit’s presence, and paying attention to what moves you as you listen to each person and the group as a whole.

“Where do you feel consoled, energized, and hopeful?” he asked, adding, “What common themes do you notice, and what marginal voice must be considered?”

Lastly, the Synod Commission member spoke about sharing the fruits of prayer through intentional speaking, asking “What fruits of my prayer seem most significant, consoling, and come from a place of love” as well as “What might the Holy Spirit be inviting me to share?”

He concluded by saying, “Share the fruits of your prayer by speaking in love.”

Luciani is a senior adviser to CELAM (Latin American Bishop`s Council), and member of the Theological Team of Advisors to the Office of the President of CLAR (Latin American Religious Women and Men Confederation). He also serves as a member of the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops Commission on Theology.

“The Synod will possibly be the most important ecclesial event in the current phase of the reception of the Second Vatican Council under the pontificate of Francis,” Luciani began.

He said that a path has opened for the church to reconfigure itself in a synodal key, but that it will require a process of conversion and reform, and this will take time, perhaps generations.

“The ecclesiological novelty of a Synod on Synodality lies in conceiving the Church as a Church of Churches and implementing the first level of synodality,” explained Luciani. “That is why it is important to understand that synodality is the most appropriate way for the Church to generate the processes of identity and theological-cultural reconfiguration that the times and cultures require.”

Pope Francis has stated that a people must be listened to in a particular time and place in order to “know what the Spirit is saying to the Churches” and to find ways of proceeding suitable to each epoch.

“For this reason, the mere act of listening does not of itself characterize the ecclesial processes,” Luciani said. “The listening must also happen within a representative framework by which all the faithful participate in the processes of joint discernment that build ecclesial decisions and this express the consensus of all the faithful.”

The Synod’s preparatory document expresses it: “In the synodal style, decisions are made by discernment on the basis of a consensus born of common obedience to the Spirit.”

Luciani emphasized that when undertaking a listening process, it is important to take into account “prayer, listening, analyzing, dialogue, and consulting” because the aim of this process is not simply to meet together and get to know one another better; the objective is to work together “so that pastoral decisions are made.”

He continued, “This is a key aspect that defines the meaning and the goal of the synodal process. The Synod on Synodality is setting in motion a way of proceeding that facilitates communal discernment of a more complete definition of the Church.”

The Synod commission member closed by saying, “This new perspective is the fruit of a fresh understanding of the ecclesiology of the People of God.”

The professor will also take part in a Spanish presentation on Saturday, Feb. 26, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., that will be available at www.YouTube.com/ArchdioceseofSanAntonio. The event will feature Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, and Cristina Inogés-Sanz from Spain, member of the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops Commission on Methodology. Additional information can be found at archsa.org/synodality