Diocesan Pastoral Council Hears, Discusses New Synod Synthesis
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
November 10, 2022
ROCKFORD—The agenda for the Diocesan Pastoral Council was changed a few days before their meeting at the request of Bishop David Malloy who wanted to discuss a document released by the Vatican on Oct. 27.
The “Working Document for the Continental Stage” of the Synod called for by Pope Francis, is what Kevin Fuss, diocesan director of Research and Planning and facilitator of the Synod for the Rockford Diocese, called “essentially a synthesis of all the National Syntheses and is now the preeminent Synod document we are to reflect upon.”
Fuss shared with the council that it seems rather “remarkable that the Vatican, from a myriad of languages around the world, was able to read, analyze, produce and then distribute this document in a little over a month.” Dioceses around the world were given about eight months to gather and analyze feedback on the original Synod document questions. Those reports from individual dioceses were then compiled and summarized into the national reports which took about three months before being submitted to the Vatican. 
The 44-page document was sent to all DPC members along with instructions to focus on the five parts of section three. Members were asked to read the document through the lens of Church teachings and consider their own lived experiences and to:
– Identify pieces of the document that resonate the most,
– Identify pieces of the document that raise questions and issues, and
– Identify the most important pieces that should be discussed by the bishops in Rome in 2023.
Members of the DPC were reminded that the summary, as stated in the “Working Document for the Continental Stage” was written by a team assembled by the Vatican and is not the Rockford Diocese’s document.
The areas of discussion from the document included:
-- Listening Becomes Welcoming: this section focused on the importance of listening, recognizing the value in all the people of God, and overcoming obstacles of active listening. The document emphasizes that a renewed effort is needed to reach out to the poor, elderly, migrants, prisoners, minority groups, women and young people.
-- Sisters and Brothers for Mission: the second portion of the report proposed the Kerygma (the “proclamation of the Gospel”) as the fundamental mission of the Church. Several paragraphs in this section suggest the importance of engaging with other faiths to solve problems and re-emphasizing the Church’s important role in reconciling divided societies. The report identified the abuse crises and Church teachings on abortion, contraception, ordination, celibacy and divorce as factors that create tensions between the secular world and the Church and, therefore, impacts the Church’s ability to proclaim the Gospel.
-- Communion, Participation and Co-responsibility: This portion of the report re-affirmed the common dignity of baptism and the value of all vocations. It then touches on the need for a deeper awareness and sensitivity to the role of women and their vocation in the Church. The last paragraphs suggest that the task is to “harmonize the charismatic gift given to the laity with the hierarchical gifts given via the Sacrament of Orders.”
-- Synodality Takes Shape: in this section, the report reminds readers that changes to Canon Law must accompany the “process of structural renewal” of the Church. This renewal would include sustaining and extending synodality by incorporating it into the Roman Curia, Episcopal conferences, Church councils and consecrated life.
-- Synodal Life and Liturgy: in the final section, we are reminded the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Church’s synodal dynamism” and that while the liturgy “is a force to uniting and mobilizing human and spiritual energies” it can also be a source of division. The most common division discussed was over the “limited access to the 1962 Missal.” The report notes that a synodal style of liturgical celebrations are ones that “welcomes all differences, values all ministries and recognizes all charisms.”
This section also recognizes that access to the Eucharist by the geographically distanced, the poor and divorced are problems that require solutions.
Members of the Council discussed each of these sections at length, asked questions and shared their reflections. Bishop  Malloy then reminded the Council the next phase of the Synod is for each continent of the world to discern which aspects of the Working Document were most vital to them. This “Continental Stage” would result in 7 reports being submitted to the Holy Father. At that point, the Vatican will produce one final report that the Synod of Bishops will discuss at their October 2023 meeting.
Last month, Pope Francis announced that an additional Synod of Bishops would convene in October 2024 after which would commence the Implementation Phase. However, details of these phases have not yet been communicated.
New members welcomed during this recent meeting included Connie McDonough representing the McHenry Deanery; Jerry Smith representing the DeKalb Deanery; Deacon Dave Zarembski representing the Permanent Deacons and Josie Whaley representing the Sterling Deanery.
To read the full continental report go to https://www.synod.va/en/highlights/working-document-for-the-continental-stage.html
For more information about the Diocesan Pastoral Council contact executive secretary Kevin Fuss at kfuss@rockforddiocese.org.
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