BRIDGEPORT—The summary report on the 2021-2023 Global Synod on Synodality listening sessions held in parishes throughout the diocese has been submitted to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as part of the diocesan participation in the global synod called for by Pope Francis.
The diocesan summary was submitted on July 11 by Deacon Stephen Hodson, who was appointed synod representative for the Diocese of Bridgeport by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. The report reflects comments of over 1,300 men and women who participated in listening sessions in 42 percent of parishes in the diocese, Deacon Hodson said. “The process has deepened our understanding of who we are as a community in Christ, and helped to begin the healing process that needs to occur within the Church,” said Deacon Hodson, a member of the pastoral ministry team at St. Luke Parish in Westport.
Bishop Caggiano praised Deacon Hodson for leading the process and expressed his thanks to all who participated in the listening sessions and to those who assisted Deacon Hodson in compiling the synthesis. “I am very grateful to Deacon Hodson for taking on this monumental task in a spirit of listening and conciliation,” the bishop said, noting that the synthesis is a valuable document that bears further study in the coming months as the diocese discerns the comments and suggestions of the faithful.
Pope Francis launched the Global Synod on Synodality in October 2021, and since that time, delegates from parishes around the world have been working to effectively listen to and bring forward the concerns, questions and hopes of the faithful.
Deacon Hodson said the report summarizes the insights, questions and suggestions provided by the parishioners of the Diocese Bridgeport over the past seven months in response to the request by Pope Francis to consult with the faithful. The faithful freely commented on a wide range of subjects including the liturgy, sacraments and spiritual practices including the Sacrament of Reconciliation, family life, the need to create more welcoming parishes, the importance of engaging youth, the diminished understanding of the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the increasing role of the laity.
“These faith stories, or lived experiences, come from God and enable us to witness how God has journeyed with us in the past and will continue to journey with all his adopted daughters and sons in the future. We are being guided to share true experiences of how God has brought us to himself, healed and consoled us, brought us joy and sustained us in sorrow,” Deacon Hodson said.
Though the diocese has submitted the initial summary to the USCCB, it is encouraging parishes that have not completed their report to send it for inclusion in the regional report summary that will be submitted by the Archdiocese of Hartford at the end of July, he said. In addition to the “live” listening sessions, several parishes held Zoom sessions and several conducted surveys to allow those who could not attend live or Zoom sessions to respond via written responses submitted via email, online survey services or in-person drop boxes, Deacon Hodson said. Some parishes also held listening sessions with their active ministry groups which proved to very valuable as the participants were largely long-time parishioners with significant wisdom that was shared with love, along with honest critique, he said.
Deacon Hodson said participants didn’t shy away from tough topics or areas of disagreement, but always managed to voice their concerns or disappointment along with a strong love for the Church and the role it plays in their lives. Some individuals commented on the need for more joy, passion and love in the Mass, the lack of inclusiveness in the Church’s messaging, gender issues and the need to expand the role of women in the Church. Others were concerned about the shortage of priests and the lingering wounds and sense of betrayal caused by the abuse scandal.
“The goal was to let people speak about what was on their hearts—the more open-ended the questions, the better,” said Deacon Hodson, who believes the Holy Spirit inspired candid comments and reflections from the hearts of diocesan participants. “Sadness, struggle and frustration were expressed, as were love, hope and joy. Many suggestions were made in the hope that the Holy Spirit will nourish the seeds of new life for our Church, the beloved bride of our savior, Jesus Christ, who desires that all may be one.”
While local dioceses across the country submit their reports, which will be included in larger regional summaries, the Vatican is preparing a process to review the documents and produce a final synthesis. Speaking as a guest on Bishop Caggiano’s weekly radio show and podcast, Sr. Nathalie Becquart, under-secretary for the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and a member of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, said she hopes to receive all of the synthesis of reports from the bishop’s conference by mid-August, and that the Vatican team has been working to prepare the methodology and the process to review all reports. “It’s not an academic synthesis—it’s an act of discernment,” she said. “So it has to be a process, through prayer land listening. We have imagined working as a group of many diverse people, because we will receive the synthesis from everywhere in different languages.”
Suggestions made by the laity for renewing the Church are included in the diocesan report along with strategies for evangelization and engaging the faithful in the life of the Church.
(The entire report and updates will be available online on the Institute for Catholic Formation website, at: formationreimagined.org. Bishop Caggiano will lead Daytime Prayer as part of the closing ceremony for the first phase of the synod on September 10, 11 am at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.)