What's happening with the synod?

January 5, 2022

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A new beginning: the Church of southwest Iowa takes time to stop and listen

By John Gaffney

Last May, Pope Francis invited bishops from every diocese in the world to begin a process, called a synod, to spend time with the Catholic faithful reflecting upon communion, participation, and mission. 

The term “synod” means to be on the same path with other disciples who follow Jesus Christ, the Way who leads us to abundant life. 

This phase of the process in our diocese runs through April 2022.  The first step in this process is listening to the faithful within parishes, schools, hospitals, and other church-related ministries, and to those on the margins of the Church and society; in order to deeply hear from our sisters and brothers with various perspectives about the future of our local Church. 

Pope Francis has shared the following vision and goals for this process.

  • Vision: "By walking together, and together reflecting on the journey made, the Church will be able to learn from what it will experience which processes can help it to live communion, to achieve participation, to open itself to mission."
  • Goals: To listen, as the entire People of God, to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church.
  • by listening together to the Word of God in Scripture and the living Tradition of the Church,
  • by listening to one another, and especially to those at the margins, and
  • discerning the signs of the times

In the Diocese of Des Moines, Bishop William Joensen has entered into a strategic visioning process that already incorporated a great deal of what Pope Francis and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asked of dioceses for the synodal process. The challenge was aligning the Diocese’s processes with those outlined in the instructions that were received.

A few of the ways the Diocese of Des Moines will be able to align the synodal process with strategic visioning include:

1.     Using the strategic visioning process as our primary synodal process. The visioning process is deeply rooted in the movement of the Holy Spirit. It includes one-on-one deep listening sessions, focus groups, and monthly peer listening sessions from the strategic visioning steering committee members to those they know who are active and inactive in the Catholic faith. This process includes voices from all around the Diocese, every age group, those actively engaged and those on the margins. 

2.     Using a survey tool to include those who were not able to participate in strategic visioning process, but whose voice can help prioritize the needs of the diocesan community. Here is the survey.

3.     As the strategic vision and core values of the Des Moines Diocese is formed, the synodal process will be an excellent model to help parishes, schools, hospitals, and other church-related ministries in creating a pastoral plan for implementation. 

One of the hopes and expected fruits of the visionary process is that we will discover and offer ways in which we are already a synodal church who consults and accompanies one another, lay people, religious, and clergy alike. 

Through these processes, rooted in the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church of southwest Iowa, we look forward to beginning a journey of growing authentically towards the communion and mission that God calls us to live out in the third millennium.