Listening and Speaking on the Way to the Synod


(Left to Right) Holy Trinity parishioners Kate Stewart-Gerry, Chris Hannigan, Deacon Charles Huber and the Deacon’s wife Jean Plummer representing Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart during the ADW Synod Listening Session.


by Kate Stewart-Gerry and Chris Hannigan, Parish Pastoral Council


“We have to help people empty their buckets,” said one of the Sisters who sat with us as we worked through the questions. “That’s when God comes through to deify us.”


The Archdiocesan of Washington (ADW) Synod Listening Session for the DC parishes took place on May 14 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, an historically Black Catholic parish in Southeast DC. With reports from Holy Trinity’s parish level listening sessions, two Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) members and our pastor, Fr. Kevin Gillespie, joined over 80 priests, religious, and laypeople, to accompany one another on the path to the Synod on Synodality called by Pope Francis.


Other parishes and communities raised themes that echoed many of those expressed by Holy Trinity parishioners. Throughout the session, people brought up their positive experiences engaging with the Mass and with the community. They shared concerns about the continued marginalization of the LGBTQIA+ community, people of color, and women. They shared a need to raise young people to the status of leaders and to help people become engaged with faith formation. They were heartened by Pope Francis’ efforts to consult the universal Church--not just the institutional hierarchy--but shared concerns about transparency and whether the bishops would truly engage with the process, particularly as the reports are further consolidated on the way to Rome.


In other cases, participants from other parishes emphasized points that did not arise or arose infrequently in Holy Trinity’s sessions. Examples included the sense that increased use of technology had left some parishioners feeling more alienated, rather than more connected, and one parish advocating for the continued celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in their parish and others that offer that rite.


This summer, the ADW will consolidate the results of 106 parish reports, all four archdiocesan listening sessions, and 1000 online comments into a single 10-page report. That full report will be published in both English and Spanish on ADW’s website and in the Catholic Standard. At the national level, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will similarly condense 196 diocesan reports into a single, 10- page consensus document. A subsequent continental phase will consolidate the USCCB’s report with inputs from other North American and Caribbean conferences in a report that informs the synod in Rome. Pope Francis has committed that women and men religious and laypersons will participate at every level, including that October 21-23, 2023 meeting at the Vatican.


At the concluding Mass, Cardinal Gregory exhorted us to, “Love one another,” a particularly poignant mandate on the day of the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, NY, and amidst ongoing atrocities in the war in Ukraine and now the tragedy in Texas. Through it all, he emphasized that we need to love everyone.


Listening is one step--if only the first step--to love. May we continue taking steps forward.