WESTON—It was a beautiful fall morning this Saturday, October 16, as Bishop Frank J. Caggiano commissioned synod delegates from around the diocese at a special ceremony at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Weston.
A breeze rustled through the changing leaves as delegates, chosen by their pastors to represent their parish, filed into the church.
The bishop asked each parish and quasi-parish in the Diocese of Bridgeport to choose four delegates to participate in the diocesan portion of the Global Synod on Synodality announced by Pope Francis in March of this year.
The morning began with a warm welcome, followed by a prayer service.
Addressing those gathered for the commissioning ceremony the bishop said, “You and I will listen attentively to the needs of God’s people and to the Holy Spirit, and to discern what it is the Spirit is speaking to our hearts.”
Bishop Caggiano explained that during this Synod on Synodality, delegates are being called to listen on behalf of the Universal Church, as it is the Holy Father Pope Francis who has called for this synod.
“If this synod is to bear great fruit, we must make it our business to be so receptive to what is being said that the many wounds of God’s people will come to the forefront,” said the bishop.
The bishop referred to the delegates as agents of healing. He said that the delegates are being called to listen to others’ stories, their pain, in a way that offers it back up to God.
Bishop Caggiano mentioned that at noon that same day there would be a commissioning of diocesan Ambassadors, participating in the “Call to Renewal.” “You, too, are ambassadors,” said the bishop. “You are going forth to show that someone cares enough to listen.”
That caring, that listening, the bishop explained, is the beginning of healing.
“We are called to bring healing to a broken church, a broken world,” said the bishop.
Deacon Stephen Hodson, diocesan delegate to the synod office, presented those who are serving as delegates. Delegates recited the official prayer of the synod.
After the conclusion of the service, delegates made their way to the parish hall for an orientation.
Bishop Caggiano explained the uniqueness of the Synod on Synodality. “Pope Francis is piloting a new methodology on how the synod can be done in the future. It rests on answering the question: who are we as a Church?”
The bishop explained that in all the synods before this one, the bishops would be the one to hear the concerns of their people and bring those concerns to the synod delegation. He explained that that methodology will not change, but the consultation process will. “The Holy Father wants to create a mechanism by which the entire People of God are consulted when a topic is offered,” the bishop said.
Synods will reconvene every two or three years for topics specific for which the Holy Father has discerned he needs to hear the voice of all God’s people.
The bishop told the delegates that Pope Francis wishes for these synods to be conducted in such a way that we are listening to each other and also listening outside of ourselves.
He spoke of the importance of reaching out to even those who are outside the community of faith.
The bishop made clear that the goals of this synod are to effectively hear the concerns of those around us, to deepen our understanding of who we are as a community in Christ, and to begin the healing process that needs to occur within the Church.
“I am grateful that you are here and willing to take this adventure forward,” he said.
Bishop Caggiano once again introduced Deacon Hodson to address the delegates.
“It is invaluable that we gather together and listen to each other,” Deacon Hobson said, “To discern the Holy Spirit guiding this endeavor.”
Deacon Hodson explained that each parish is allowed to discern the best ways of enabling a Spirit-led synod experience for parishioners. “It is important that we ask the Holy Spirit to participate,” said the deacon, leading the gathered in singing “Come Holy Ghost.”
Deacon spoke of the different ways parishes can conduct listening sessions and how each parish can tailor gatherings to fit their needs. Between one-on-one sessions, small group gatherings, and a town-hall style meeting, Deacon Hodson explained the advantages and drawbacks of each.
Each local process will conclude in April 2022 with the creation of a diocesan report that will be sent to both the USCCB and the Roman Synod Office One of the four delegates will be delegated the task of drafting the parish’s report, based on a template that will be provided to by the start of the new year. At this time there will be a closing Mass of Thanksgiving for all the delegates.
(For more information on the Synod on Synodality, please visit: www.synod.va/en.html)