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 | By One Voice Staff

Listening to Each Other and Journeying Together

Bishop Raica Opens the Diocesan Phase of Synod 2021-2023

On Sunday, Oct. 17, Bishop Raica opened the diocesan phase of Synod 2021-2023, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” The synodal process, which Pope Francis has invited the entire Church to partake, will focus primarily on “how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel.” More succinctly, the process, according to Bishop Raica, “is meant to help us organize ourselves in a way that is able to listen for and detect the thread of the Holy Spirit active among us.”

At the beginning of Mass, the Opening Rites were modified for the opening of a synod. The bishop prayed: “Dear brothers and sisters, as we begin this synodal process in our local Church, let us open our hearts to the work of the Holy Spirit, trusting Him to guide His Church ‘into all truth,’ let all the People of God follow our Lord Jesus by putting on charity, the bond of perfection, and let each one of us commend our spirit into the hands of our merciful Father, as we seek to build up the Body of Christ and to provide faithful witness of the Gospel to the whole world….Pour out on us, O Lord, we pray, a spirit of truth, understanding, and peace, that we may know with all our hearts what is pleasing to You and, with one accord, pursue what we have come to know…”

In the bishop’s homily, he pointed out the meaning of the word synod: walking together. He also explained how the Church usually hold synods every three to four years, focusing on particular themes. “This time, we are asked to focus on the very nature of a synod,” said the bishop. “A synod seeks to listen to the Word of God, above all, and also to one another in order to guide the effectiveness of our pastoral initiatives and efforts. It is a beautiful concept – but it takes time to grasp. I think we are at the beginning steps of a beautiful journey together: crawling before we can walk.”

Bishop Raica continued by explaining the process for the current synod. “The process of this synod has three components or pillars: communion, participation, and mission,” he stated with each component having its own “reflection / conversation points which we will explore through April 2022.” The process is one that is “very much endorsed by the Holy Father” and one taken from the New Testament. After “delving into” these pages, the bishop said, “we see hints of synodal activity – that the apostles attempted to listen to the wider community before reaching major pastoral decisions affecting the life of the Church and helping the Apostles minister with greater effectiveness in pastoral ministry.”

Concluding his homily, Bishop Raica expressed his gratitude for “prayer during this time that our efforts may be fruitful, indeed, as we listen to each other and journey together as pilgrims.” At the end of Mass, the bishop imparted an Apostolic Blessing to those present at Mass.

In the Diocese of Birmingham the synodal process will be divided into so-called seasons: communion, participation, and mission. The first season, communion, which will last until December, will include evenings of prayer with Bishop Raica, enthroning of the Word of God in homes, and gatherings for Eucharistic Adoration and confession. The next season, participation, will begin in January and continue through March of 2022. The season of participation will include dialogue sessions with clergy, religious, and laity. The final season of the diocesan phase is mission. During this season, the feedback from the first two seasons will be gathered and compiled as a “synthesis” document to be sent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The USCCB will join all other countries in sending their contributions for use in the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October of 2023.

Bishop Raica will host times for prayer before our Lord in the Eucharist as the Diocese of Birmingham begins the journey to the synod. The first evening of prayer will be held at St. John the Baptist in Madison on Oct. 20. St. Francis of Assisi in Tuscaloosa will hold the next one on Nov. 2 and the Cathedral of St. Paul will hold another on Nov. 4. The last evening will be held at Our Lady of the Lake in Pell City on Nov. 8. All events will be celebrated from 7-8 p.m. Find out more about the diocesan phase at