Communion, participation, and mission. Words we would expect to read as we prepare for our provincial chapter in July. Or maybe these words came from GC28, from the post-chapter reflections, or the six-year action program for the Congregation. Actually, these three words—communion, participation, and mission—have been presented to us to guide the journey of the entire Church toward the next Synod of Bishops, which has been described as a synod on synodality. It proposes a renewed understanding of the Church today, based on Gaudium et Spes and Lumen Gentium (documents from 60 years ago), a rediscovery of how to be the Church as on the day of Pentecost but in the 21st century.
The opening of the process of synodality began more officially in October 2021 with a moment of reflection by Pope Francis. The process will continue until the assembly of the bishops in synod in October 2023 as a two-year process of listening and discernment.
I draw attention to the synodal process because dioceses are sending out notices inviting religious, parishioners, church organizations, and ministries to be part of the process. As Salesian religious and faithful educators and pastors, we have the gift of the Salesian charism to share with the local Church. We also have the important role of guiding the people to participate in this process. The process is meant to be inclusive and involve those who come to church regularly, those who have left the practice of the faith, and those who find religion irrelevant. We can reach out to those who love our work with the young and those who have plenty of complaints. We should not forget the marginalized: the poor, homeless, immigrants, elderly, sick, or disabled. Diocesan offices are sending out questionnaires and timelines to the religious as well as the lay to facilitate people’s participation. Due to the pandemic, the dioceses are providing online options. I ask all our confreres to contribute to this process and encourage many colleagues, including young adults, to also participate.
Looking at the process of preparation for our provincial chapter, we can see the similarity in methodology and priorities with the synodal process. This is a good sign that the Spirit is the principal agent in this process. In fact, we don’t have to multiply meetings, but we can take advantage of already scheduled gatherings to recognize common themes and listen carefully to each other, our colleagues, the young, and their families. Our local pastoral planning and the discussions at the provincial chapter will be enriched by our participation in the diocesan process. The skills of listening and praying together through frank yet respectful dialogue used in the diocesan process will strengthen our accompaniment of young people, our life of communion, and our experience at the provincial chapter.
Thanks to everyone who promoted and participated in the Salesian Family Spirituality Days. The recordings and documents are available at www.donboscosalesianportal.org. We begin the novena of St. John Bosco this Saturday. Please share the prayer resources with all members of the Salesian Family, the young and their families, and our colleagues. They are available here. Don Bosco’s love for the Church, expressed in his fidelity to the Holy Father, motivates us to be active members of the People of God, journeying together on the synodal process as the Church of the 21st century.
Fr. Tim Zak