BALTIMORE (OSV News) — The Eucharist and synodality are interconnected, said prelates attending the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall plenary assembly Nov. 13-16. Synodality, they said, ensures the faithful’s communication so the church can fulfill its Eucharistic mission.
The October meeting of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican was a touchpoint for several bishops speaking Nov. 14, including the conference’s president, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who heads the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA, and Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S.
Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, both synod delegates, also shared about their experience with the assembly.
In his welcoming address at the USCCB assembly, Cardinal Pierre said that synodality and the National Eucharistic Revival now underway in the U.S. may “at first glance” seem unrelated, but in reality “belong together by their very nature” and “shed light on one another.”
The story of Christ’s post-Resurrection appearance to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, recounted in Luke 24:13-35, “shows how the synodal process leads to an eye-opening encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist, and how the Eucharist sends us on a mission characterized by synodality,” he said. “What Jesus does with the disciples on the way to Emmaus is precisely the synodal path in its essential elements: encountering, accompanying, listening, discerning and rejoicing at what the Holy Spirit reveals.”
Bishop Flores, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine and is tasked with shepherding the synodal process in the U.S., told the bishops that the synod’s method of “conversation in the Spirit” was an effective way to promote listening.
The technique, which combines silence, sharing and prayer, promotes greater empathy and collaboration, said Father Iván Montelongo, a priest of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, who is among the 11 U.S. synod delegates.
Addressing the assembly Nov. 14, Father Montelongo shared that such conversation in the Spirit enabled the synod participants to “arrive at a common ground even on difficult topics,” and to “acknowledge our differences, our divergences, avoiding unnecessary conflict.”
The synod “was a moment of encounter, of deep listening, not only listening to doctrine or ideas, but to lived experiences in which the Gospel becomes incarnate” across the world, Father Montelongo told the bishops.
Synod delegate Cynthia Bailey Manns from Minneapolis, one of the U.S. lay delegates, also addressed the bishops in a brief video.
Speaking to the bishops alongside Bishop Flores, Bishop Rhoades called the synod “an experience of the beautiful universality of the church and of our communion in faith and love for the Lord and the church.”
Bishop Flores said conversation “implies more than talking and listening,” and “involves sharing a way of life and a style of life” marked by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.
He said that experience happens at a level that is “local and particular,” but at the same time, “the particular life of the community … can bear the sacramental imprint of the whole” church.
Archbishop Broglio told the assembled bishops that while the synod stressed “how much we can work together as parts of the body of Christ,” he simultaneously “reflected on the many synodal realities that already exist in the church in the United States.”
He highlighted the “collegial atmosphere” and “excellent consideration and interaction that typifies the work of the National Advisory Council, the work of diocesan pastoral councils, presbyteral councils, review boards, school boards and so many other organizations,” including USCCB committees.
Speaking with reporters, Bishop Rhoades said the synod has been more than a “sharing of experience,” but also an exploration of “theological convictions.” Referring to the synod’s synthesis report released Oct. 28, he said, “One of the things that’s being called for is a deeper theological reflection on some of these issues.”
Bishop Flores told reporters that synod delegates “became aware as to where the edge of the theological questions lie,” and stressed the importance of identifying theological questions accurately “because if you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer.”
At the same time, he said, the full synodal potential of existing entities such as diocesan and parish pastoral councils has not been realized, and called for more effective use of those consultative bodies.
In his assembly address, Bishop Flores said that during the synod session, “great attention was given to how our sense of mission can and must flow more cohesively from the communion that baptism generates” and that “the laity, by virtue of baptism, have an indispensable role in the mission of the church is not in doubt.”
“The questions are about how co-responsibility can be encouraged and facilitated in a way that respects the doctrinal principles that undergird ecclesial life and sound pastoral practice,” he said.
The second session of the synod — formally titled “For a Synodal
Church: Communion, Participation and Mission” — will be held in October 2024.
In both his address and remarks to reporters, Bishop Flores stressed the importance of reading and reflecting upon the synthesis document, through which “we can hear the many issues that the local churches around the world grapple with.”
“The synod offers us a Catholic way to do this grappling faithfully, realistically, prayerfully, thoughtfully and charitably,” Bishop Flores told the assembly. “We have a lot of work to do, but we, together with our people, can be hopeful that we can do so together, because we all here especially need to be actively involved in this conversation.”
Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, at @GinaJesseReina. Peter Jesserer Smith is the national news and features editor for OSV News. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @jesserersmith.
Editor’s note: Story updated to correct a date in the first paragraph.