With the conclusion of the diocesan phase of the 2021-2023 Synod on Synodality, millions of people throughout the world have engaged in synod activities ranging from meetings at the local level, virtual meetings, online surveys and other activities. They reflected on the question, “How does this ‘journeying together,’ which takes place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal one), allow the Church to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the mission entrusted to her; and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow as a synodal Church?”

The priorities of the Diocese of Burlington echoed those of many others around the country — a desire for a voice for all Catholics and more lay engagement opportunities, especially for the marginalized.

The synod synthesis was submitted to the United States Conference of Bishops along with synod reports from throughout the country. These results were formed into one document and submitted to the Synod Secretariat along with contributions from 112 of 114 episcopal conferences and from all 15 Oriental Catholic Churches, plus reflections from 17 out of 23 dicasteries of the Roman Curia and those from religious superiors, from institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life and from associations and lay movements of the faithful.

In addition, more than 1,000 contributions arrived from individuals and groups as well as insights gathered through social media. These materials were distributed to a group of experts — bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, lay men and lay women — from all continents and with diverse disciplinary expertise.

After reading the reports, these experts met for almost two weeks with the writing group, composed of the general relator, the secretary general of the synod, the undersecretaries and various officials of the synod secretariat, plus members of the coordinating committee. This group was finally joined by the members of the general council to draft the Document for the Continental Stage.

This next phase, Continental Stage of the Synod, “Enlarge the space of your tent” (Is 54:2), provides an opportunity for continental conversations to occur with neighboring brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Enlarging the tent requires welcoming others into it, making room for their diversity. It thus entails a willingness to die to self out of love, finding oneself again in and through relationship with Christ and one’s neighbor: ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit’ (Jn 12:24). The fruitfulness of the Church depends on accepting this death, which is not, however, an annihilation, but an experience of emptying oneself in order to be filled by Christ through the Holy Spirit, and thus a process by which we receive richer relationships, deeper ties to God and each other (Draft Document for the Continental Stage).”

According to the document, the heart of the synodal process is to create a Church capable of radical inclusion, shared belonging and deep hospitality according to the teachings of Jesus. During the Continental Stage, episcopal conferences will dialogue with churches linked by geographical and cultural proximity.

Bishops have been asked to appoint three to five delegates from their (Arch)Diocese as representative during the next phase. Participants from the Diocese of Burlington will dialogue virtually with their counterparts in Canada, focusing on key priorities identified during the first phase.

The delegates chosen to represent the Diocese of Burlington are: Joseph Gainza, St. Augustine Parish, Montpelier; Katharin Brink, St. Pius X Parish, Essex Center; Monica Cayia, St. Mark Parish, Burlington; and Ellen Kane, Cathedral of St. Joseph, Burlington.

To learn more about the Synod on Synodality visit vermontcatholic.org/universalsynod or synod.va/en.html.

—Originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.