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Synod’s ‘messy,’ ‘joyful’ North American phase concludes with call to mission, moves to Rome

Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez joins college students, other young adults and ministry leaders during a synodal listening session at La Salle University April 4, 2022. (OSV News photo/CNS file, Sarah Webb,

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — The final document of the latest phase of the 2021-2024 Synod on Synodality was released April 12, capturing a process of dialogue and discernment that two participants described to OSV News as “messy,” joyful and unifying — like the synod itself.

“It’s amazing what comes about when … you invoke the Holy Spirit in the conversation,” said Julia McStravog, a theologian and co-coordinator for the North American team for the continental phase of the synod.

“The synodal approach provoked a genuine appreciation and joyfulness on the part of the people of God to be able to engage in conversation, even if they were talking about difficult issues,” said team co-coordinator Richard Coll, who also serves as executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

Three key themes emerged from the continental phase of the synod: the implications of baptism, communion with Christ and one another, and missionary discipleship as a living out of the baptismal calling. Participants noted the need to reach out to marginalized groups, including women, youth, divorced and civilly remarried Catholics who have not received annulments, persons with disabilities, and those in the LGBTQ+ community. The wounds of the clerical and residential school abuse scandals also remain raw, and broader trends of social polarization also threaten church unity.

Yet Coll and McStravog stressed to OSV News the need for both hope and humility as the synod moves into its next phase.

“We don’t have all the answers, and none of this is pre-packaged,” said Coll. “You have to trust that the Spirit will be there to guide us despite the messiness — or maybe because of it.”

For the full OSV News story, see your local Catholic news source.

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