Summary of diocesan report on Synod on Synodality available online
Friday, Jul. 29, 2022
By Linda Petersen
SALT LAKE CITY — The Diocese of Salt Lake City recently completed a summary report of listening sessions held across the state as part of a worldwide effort to gather feedback from the faithful about the nature and mission of the Catholic Church. That document has been submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for inclusion in a report that will be presented to the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2023.
The synthesis of the diocesan report is available in English and Spanish on the diocesan website.
Although just 4,933 people, or 1.7 percent of Utah Catholics, participated in the 248 listening sessions the responses provide a snapshot of how active members are feeling about the Church today. “If we consider that about 20,000 Utah Catholics go to Mass on any given weekend, then our participation rate in the listening sessions is 25 percent, which is quite spectacular,” the synthesis said.
In remarks posted with the summary report, Bishop Oscar A. Solis expressed appreciation for all those who participated or contributed to the process.
“When our parish communities joined Pope Francis and all the Catholic Churches throughout the world last November in launching the Vatican Synod on Synodality 2021-2023, it was a leap of faith,” the bishop wrote. “I wondered how our diocese would be able to carry out such a gigantic endeavor of gathering parishioners during this pandemic.”
Thanks to the diocesan synod team and the participants, “we were able to ‘journey or walk together’ as a community of faith in a process of Christian dialogue, engagement and accompaniment,” the bishop added.
“A great number of parishioners representing the diversity of our Church: clergy and laity, men and women, young and old, active and disengaged, disenfranchised and those on the peripheries, and even a few from the ecumenical groups opened their hearts to the urgings of the Holy Spirit and participated for a couple of months in the listening sessions organized throughout the diocese,” he wrote.
He commended those who “shared their joys and hopes, as well as their difficulties, frustrations and disappointments with their church amidst some skepticism, uncertainties, lots of hesitation and unfamiliarity with the process. The information we heard and received expressed very well the sentiments and aspirations of the people of God today and for the future of our local Church.”
The report was made available on the diocesan website “in order for us to listen and to learn from what has been presented so we can all consider the summary prayerfully, and openly respond to where the Holy Spirit is leading us in shaping our local Church now and in the coming years,” Bishop Solis wrote.
The report outlined eight topics that emerged from the listening sessions:
A Welcoming Church
Across the board, participants in the listening sessions said the Church and its institutions need to be more welcoming. “Those already within the Catholic community, but also those by association or interest sometimes feel unwelcomed,” the report said. “Although not universal, the experience of being marginalized (differences in culture, generations, ecclesiology, ideology, language, LGBTQ+, women, youth, etc.) is still a very significant reality for many people.”
The role of women in the Church is also top of mind for many Utah Catholics. “Women want their voice to be more than heard, and there is a considerable feeling that women are being blocked or held back in various ways,” the report said.
Many participants feel that the Church needs to evolve and provide more leadership opportunity for women. While some find a male-only Church hierarchy painful, others expressed the opinion that men and women have different roles in the Kingdom. Some also felt that women could be doing more to support women, in particular that older women could be mentoring younger women more.
Although participants recognized the important role Utah Catholic Schools have in the formation of young people, they felt more should be done on the parish level and that more support should be available to parents.
“It is clear that much more is being called for in the education, formation and building up of our parish youth programs,” the report said. “We need to better serve our youth in our liturgical celebrations with tools like Children’s Liturgy of the Word, music specific for them, and make the liturgy more accessible to them.”
Parishes thrive when opportunities are provided for dialogue, ministry, prayer, social time and worship among parishioners, the feedback revealed. However, too often, it is left up to pastors to make this happen when all the faithful should be involved.
“Our activity and the intentionality and motivation behind it should come from the ground up, i.e., from the parishioners and not just the pastor or parish council,” the report said.
Language and cultural barriers also need to be overcome, those who responded said.
“We must continue to work and be deliberate in bringing different communities of people together, and helping them to flourish throughout our ministries, leadership, prayer and worship. We need more activities in adult faith formation, catechetics, Catholic schools support, understanding the liturgy, opportunities to dialogue, prayer, retreats, social events, spirituality, youth ministries, and ‘coming back to the faith’ programs,” the report said.
Catechesis And Formation
Many Catholics feel that their knowledge of the faith is inadequate, and want more opportunities for formation, especially with other adults, the report found.
“There is a desire for faithfulness to the truth and this is cultivated in our formation of character and faith at every level and every age group,” it said. “Better catechesis and formation leads us to carrying out our common mission in a better way.”
Ecumenism and Interfaith
Working with those of other Christian faiths, especially with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the predominant religion in Utah, is important to participants. While the quality of those relationships varies, many Catholics have been able to find common ground in shared family values and a desire to serve the greater community.
“No matter what obstacles we may face, we must always remember that we are Catholic Christians and … God loves us all,” one person wrote.
Communication, Dialogue, Discernment
Church members need to feel respected and listened to, the report found. Reaching across the language and cultural divide to communicate is particularly important for the Hispanic and English-speaking Catholic communities.
“When people feel no one is listening to them, that their voice is not heard or ignored, they feel they are no longer a part of the Church,” one person wrote.
Authority And Participation
While many participants recognized the Church’s hierarchical structure and governed authority, led by priests, bishops and the pope, some felt the Church should be more democratic and even labeled it “outdated, archaic or closed-minded.”
“It seems a lot is hinging on the leadership style of the pastor that a parish has assigned to them,” the report said.
Although the synodal process revealed a variety of views and experiences, “It was a grace-filled moment for us to learn to listen to each other,” the report said. “We have experienced profound dialogue, friendship and unity, a manifestation that the Spirit is alive, and God is in our midst. Let us continue to journey together and move forward the kind of church we want and love.”
“It will take patience to work diligently with the final outcome of the Synod that we may be in greater communion with the Church,” the report concluded. “Nonetheless, much of the fruit gained can begin to inform our directions and new horizons. Let it not be the fruit of the forbidden tree, but the fruit of holiness in the truth of God.”
The full summary report, which includes some suggestions for addressing concerns raised at the listening sessions, may be found at www.dioslc.org/about-us/synod-of-bishops-2023.
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