Multi-Year Church Initiatives on Synodality, Laudato Si’ and the Eucharist Intertwine | earth beat

Students at St. John XXIII Catholic Parish perform the Eucharist through Colorado State University in Fort Collins in 2018. In November 2021, the U.S. bishops announced plans for a three-year national Eucharistic renewal . (Unsplash/Rachel Moore)

In the space of several weeks last fall, three major initiatives landed on the doorsteps of American Catholic dioceses, parishes, congregations and organizations.

Beginning in October, Pope Francis opened the Synod on Synodality, a two-year engagement of the global church focused on listening and encounter. A month later, the Vatican officially launched its Laudato Si’ Platform of Action, which calls on all parts of the Church to adopt seven-year programs to adopt sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. And just days after that, the U.S. bishops announced their own plans for what they called a National Eucharistic Renewal, a three-year project that will culminate in the summer of 2024.

All three programs create busy schedules in the years to come for many corners of the American church. But do they have anything to do with each other?

It’s a question the Catholic Climate Pact attempted to explore in a webinar on February 10. And it was one of its six panelists who answered in the affirmative.

“These three initiatives are not separate, but they are deeply interdependent with each other. They fertilize, improve and nourish each other,” the Jesuit Father said. David McCallum, member of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and founding executive director of the Leadership Discernment Program, a project of the Society of Jesus.

The synod on synodality, which opened Oct. 10, aims for a church-wide conversion to a more synodal, or listening, church through what Francis called “the art of the encounter”. Until June, the dioceses are organizing listening sessions with people from all over the world.

This image on the Diocese of Raleigh website encourages Catholics in eastern North Carolina to participate in an online survey.  The survey is part of the listening process of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.  (CNS)

This image on the Diocese of Raleigh website encourages Catholics in eastern North Carolina to participate in an online survey. The survey is part of the listening process of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. (CNS/Diocese of Raleigh)

“The purpose of synod is to relearn synodality. … We learn it by experience,” Xavierian Sr. Nathalie BecquartUndersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

Some see the Laudato Si’ Action Platform as the perfect place to put this vision into practice.

Jose Aguto, executive director of Covenant, told EarthBeat that the synodal process “flows naturally into the Laudato Si’ platform for action,” with the synod representing an opportunity for Catholics to express, and their local church to ‘hear, desires for greater engagement on environmental concerns then the platform as a way to respond.

Registration for the Action Platform, a project of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, opened on November 14, with more than 4,000 people having pre-registered their interest before that. Registration for the initial cohort remains open until April 22, Earth Day.

The platform was touted as the Catholic Church’s response to accelerating climate change and environmental destruction around the world. Designed around seven categories of Laudato Si’ goals – which include action steps such as adopting renewable energy, using “green” investment guidelines, reducing the use of single-use plastics and promoting ecological spirituality – it also offers a path for ecological conversion, according to Francis, it is essential to respond seriously and substantially to the climate crisis.

During the webinar, Kerry Robinson, executive partner of Leadership Roundtable, which works in partnership with church leaders in the Vatican and the United States on synod, said the church learning to live synodally “will have a huge impact on our ability to respond to the climate change crisis together.”

Other webinar panelists said the synod theme, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission,” goes well with the platform theme. Laudato Si’ goals, which derive from the concept of integral ecology that Francis described in his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’on the care of our common home. This idea highlights how all of creation, including humans, is interdependent, as are social and ecological problems, which require multidisciplinary solutions.

“There is this coherence between integral ecology and the invitation to come together [through the synod] in this collaborative way as a church, as the people of God,” McCallum said.

He added that the synod emphasizes a collaborative approach which is “absolutely essential” in addressing difficult challenges, especially “at a critical time in our history.”

“The way we work on this issue of converting social structures, our economies, the ways we relate to our resources and then give back to the planet, that too is reinforced by what we have learned from synodality” , he said.

Panelists discuss the Catholic Church's three multi-year initiatives during a Catholic Climate Alliance webinar Feb. 10.  (EarthBeat screenshot)

Panelists discuss the Catholic Church’s three multi-year initiatives during a Catholic Climate Alliance webinar Feb. 10. (EarthBeat screenshot)

“How to implement Laudato Si’ is the way to help all of our societies truly embrace this ecological conversion,” Becquart said. “For the Church, it is the path of synodality.

Catholic Climate Covenant encourages its members to fully engage in synod. She guided her members and her cohort of creative care teams to participate in diocesan and parish listening sessions. It is also preparing to gather responses as a national organization.

“Many of our constituents have for years expressed concern and frustration that their pastors and bishops are not taking care of creation. … It is this opportunity for our constituents to just say it in a very collective and in a very honest way to want their churches to embrace, and especially their parishes and dioceses, to embrace care for creation,” Aguto said.

“If creation is treated with respect and honored in the way we worship and in the place where we worship, perhaps that same respect and honor will mark our relationship with creation on the other six days and 23 hours of the week. .”

—Frank Agnoli

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As for the U.S. Bishops’ Eucharistic Revival, which begins in June and will culminate in a 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, Aguto said the “one loaf, one body” image could help unify Catholics across the ideologies and priorities and to see their work, including on the care of creation, as the work of all.

But how practically the synod, the Laudato Si’ Platform for Action, and Eucharistic Renewal intertwine has been demonstrated by officials in the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa. Chancery staff have created a working group that meets twice a month to coordinate their efforts across the three initiatives.

Deacon Frank Agnoli, director of liturgy and deacon formation, said there were practical reasons for working with a limited staff, “but more importantly the main reason is theological. If the synod describes the church, how to ensure that other initiatives are approached in a synodal way?

Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Patrick Schmadeke, diocesan director of evangelism, have a conversation Jan. 28 about the diocese

Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Patrick Schmadeke, diocesan director of evangelism, have a conversation Jan. 28 about the diocese’s “58,000 cups of coffee” initiative. (CNS/The Catholic Messenger/Barb Arland-Fye)

So far, the diocese has sought to raise ecological awareness in its outreach and planning for synod and eucharistic renewal, whether through its “58,000 cups of coffee” listening initiative or incorporating respectful practices. of the environment in liturgies, such as the use of beeswax candles instead of oil-based ones and preaching about creation.

“If creation is treated with respect and honored in the way we worship and in the place where we worship, perhaps that same respect and honor will mark our relationship with creation on the other six days and 23 hours of the week. “, said Agnoli.

Moving forward with three multi-year initiatives, without giving up on any, takes a lot of intentionality and planning, Agnoli and others added with the Diocese of Southeast Iowa. Bringing everyone on board with everyone can be an equal challenge.

Robinson told EarthBeat that she sees the three initiatives as less weighty and competing projects and rather “more of an invitation to relate to each other differently, to listen to each other differently, to imagine more differently, and to include a lot more of people, different people, in our thoughtful and prayerful deliberations.”

“These are all matters of great importance to the church and to the world,” she said.

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