By Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv.
The current synod on synodality underway throughout the entire Church has been undertaken to awaken greater participation in the life of the Church by all the baptized. While the synod as a functioning body within the Church was reestablished by Pope St. Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council, it has largely functioned as a consultative body which serves the pope and discusses various themes essential to the Church’s life and mission. It has promoted collegiality among the bishops from all over the world, and at its best, an opportunity for spirited discussion and debate about how best to live our faith in the present world.
Ever since convening the synods on the family, Pope Francis has both expressed his firm desire that bishops speak boldly and listen charitably to each other, rather than cautiously express what has already been said. He also said that a synod on the family would need to include couples and families in order to have something of value to say to the Church today. With the latest convocation of the synod, Pope Francis has expanded the role of the whole Church and has asked every diocese throughout the world to hold listening sessions to really hear what the People of God are saying and to discern the Holy Spirit’s voice in their experience.
For the Franciscan family, living as brothers and sisters and listening to the voice of each has always been an ideal. Community life has always meant more than sleeping under the same roof, but is to be a sharing of life that is central to our identity and our mission. Periodic Chapter gatherings are special times for the community to gather for prayer, listening and discerning the promptings of the Holy Spirit; the fuller the participation, the more fruitful the mission. Pope Francis would like the whole Church to operate in this manner, discerning together what God is calling us to do and how to walk towards the future together.