Posted on August 24, 2022
The Synodality report submitted by Fr. Jim Allen, regarding our Belleville Oblates, and the Synodality report submitted by Fr. Harry Winter, regarding the Diocese of Syracuse, may seem unrelated. But we are putting them together to show the widespread interest in the Synodality process going on in every religious community and every diocese in the world.
When I was assisting the ill pastor in my home parish of St. Paul, Norwich, NY, from July 25-Aug. 7, 2022, the diocese published in its newspaper The Catholic Sun, a summary of 42 listening sessions. What caught my attention was the addition of “special listening sessions,” three of which were “for those who for whatever reason are estranged from the Church, with a particular focus on the LGBTQ Community.” Later in the report, when the top 10 themes were listed, “The LGBTQ Community” was #6. And when this was described, the authors explained “At one of our special listening sessions geared to the LGBTQ Community, several gay people spoke of their experience of being considered ‘possessed’ or ‘mentally ill.’ Their stories were heartbreaking.”
In a meeting with one of my high school classmates, the husband and wife both expressed their concern and bewilderment over a lesbian daughter and daughter-in-law. This development already presented in “Synodality and Oblates in the USA, Part Three,” continues to grow.
The report also described “one of the surprises was how quickly and how deeply the people entered into the sacred silence. For the most part, the people listened carefully and attentively to one another, and seemed to act just as the Holy Father wished: they spoke freely, boldly , and courageously …and respectfully (with a few exceptions).”
St. Henry’s Oblate Residence, Belleville, IL
On May 26, 2022, 13 of the 18 Missionary Oblates living in this community gathered prayerfully to express their thoughts on the preparatory questions for the Synod of 2023. The questions were adapted to the nature of this community of priests and Brothers , most of whom are retired or in Reduced Active Ministry.
The experience of community life has been a unique experience for each person, depending partially on their ministerial assignments: some have been in small communities; some, in large; some were basically alone for several years.
However, there is general agreement that community life here is a positive source of sharing and mutual support. Given the rather advanced age of most of the members, it has been described as “living while dying, making the best of our time together, aware of our mortality.”
Our shared identity as Oblates of Mary Immaculate affords us the opportunity to learn from one another as we move forward together. The Holy Spirit works differently in each of us and helps us to understand our differences and our gifts.
As “cradle Catholics,” it is difficult to imagine a life totally outside of the Church. But the idea and experience of Church has expanded through contact with different peoples and cultures. At the same time, we would find it difficult to experience God without being in contact with other people.
Most of us knew the Church before we even really knew God and Jesus. It was only through maturing in our faith that we began to realize the transcendence of God and the call to be of service to others.
At this point in our lives, given the experiences we have had in many places and with so many people, the Church is anything but an abstraction. We see the Church in the persons we serve, whether they are prospering or struggling.