From the Antilles Episcopal Conference
Q: What is the Synod?
Synod means the People of God (laity, clergy, religious) “walking together” (Communion and Participation) to listen and discern to the voice of the Holy Spirit directing and guiding the Church on how to exercise its Mission of evangelisation in the 21st century. Hence, the theme, For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission. We refer to the Synod as a journey. Read Luke 24:13–35.
Q: What is the purpose of the Synod Journey?
The Synod logo depicts a diverse Church – cultures, ages, opinions/ideas, experiences, demography, and religious status. If the Holy Spirit guides and directs the Church’s mission, then the Church learns how to listen to the voice of the Spirit.
Discovering the voice of the Spirit involves listening to each other and the Word of God in a prayerful and respectful environment. Authentic listening leads to discernment, and discernment facilitates mature and inclusive decision-making. The purpose of the Synod is to form the Church, whose structure of governance and leadership invites and involves the full participation of the People of God in a journey of listening, discernment, and decision-making. Read Acts 15: 1–21.
Q: How can the Church listen?
From its rich tradition, the Church identifies and recommends a method of discernment called ‘Conversation in the Spirit’. First, the participants clarify the issue or area for discernment.
For example, how can we become more inclusive? Each participant is invited to spend time individually reflecting and praying with the question, perhaps with the guidance of a scripture passage. Then, the group gathers.
In stage one, each person shares their prayer experience using the “I statement” within a given time, and others listen without interruption, debating, argument, or coercion. It ends with a silent pause.
In stage two, each person responds by sharing what struck them while listening to others and then closes with a silent pause. In stage three, the group summarises the movement of the spirit by asking, what have we heard? And then close with a prayer.
Q: What are the phases of this Synod Journey?
Since the launch of the Synod Journey by Pope Francis on October 10, 2021, the People of God have been journeying together through three phases. Phase one is the diocesan phase. Nineteen dioceses in the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) consisting of the French, Dutch and English-speaking countries, participated in this listening phase.
Phase two is the Continental phase. The AEC belongs to Latin America and the Caribbean region. This listening phase was held in the Dominican Republic in February 2023, and we sent six delegates led by Bishop Clyde Harvey.
Phase three is the General Assembly, which will be held in Rome in October 2023 and 2024. Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon is the AEC representative.
Q: Why are these three stages of listening necessary?
Imagine for a moment the development of a landslide. It begins with a small breakaway on a hilltop, and as it moves downward, it gathers more debris until it settles at the foot of the hill.
As the Church embarks on this long journey, she gathers more and more wisdom and experiences to hear and confirm the voice of the Holy Spirit for the Church’s mission.
Q: What happens at the end of each phase of the journey?
At the end of each phase of the journey, the experience is documented in a synthesis, not a written report for decisions and implementation, but a collection of the hopes/dreams, anguish, joys, pains, frustrations, desires, and questions for further reflection and discernment.
Like a fruit basket, the synthesis reflects the experience of each phase. Each synthesis contributes to the next step of listening. The delegates of the Synodal Assembly in October 2023 will use the last synthesis, Instrumentum Laboris or Working Document, for further reflection and discernment.
Q: Should we expect grand decision-making for implementation at the end of the Synod Assembly in Rome?
Let us be guided by the Synod theme, For a Synodal Church. The primary objective of the synod is that the People of God learn a new way of listening and discernment. Related to this, it is hoped that parishes and dioceses’ decision-making structures and procedures, for example, are reformed so that more persons participate in the decision-making process.
The outcome of the Synod Journey is fundamentally personal conversion and pastoral conversion – a new way of listening, discerning, and decision-making.