By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Davenport — A mobile of paper hearts, red and white, attached to a Synod banner in the gathering space of Sacred Heart Cathedral is attracting attention, just as its creator hoped. Each heart bears a message from a participant in a parish Synod listening session during which parishioners described what fills their hearts about the Catholic Church and what breaks their hearts.
What fills their hearts? “Extraordinary experience of liturgy.” “Uniformity but uniqueness of each parish.” “Welcoming people.” “Catechism.” “Outreaches (clothing center, food pantry).” “Sacraments.” “Universal Church with a united message.” “Catholic tradition of 2,000 years.” “When I see my children pray at church and at home.” “Love and sense of care exhibited by Pope Francis.” “Since Vatican II, clergy and priests can communicate with us.” “Aesthetic experience (art, music, sacred space).” These thoughts, inscribed on red hearts, are some of the things that fill people’s hearts.
What breaks their hearts? “Misunderstanding of Catholic practice.” “Division of Catholics on critical issues — abortion, treatment of the poor.” “Inconsistent leadership (different bishops say different things).” “Lack of vocational opportunities (women priests, married priests).” “Rigidity of rules governing divorce, LGBT+, etc.” “No group for young singles — 20-30 years.” “Politics within the Church.” “Elderly isolation — forgotten/needs of faith.” “Abusive actions of some priests and religious.” These thoughts, inscribed on white hearts etched with a crack, are some of the things that break people’s hearts.
Gale Francione, a Sacred Heart parishioner and parish Synod representative, created the project that captures heartfelt messages for all to read. Her inspiration came from listening to people express their thoughts for a report (without names) to be sent to the Diocese of Davenport for the Synod report to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The USCCB will synthesize reports from throughout the nation for the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in 2023.
Francione thought that “if people could see the comments (in the gathering space), it might give more people inspiration to participate or to know what their fellow parishioner has to say.” She transcribed the messages onto the hearts from the listening sessions she has conducted. “I’m trying to be as faithful to their responses as possible.” She also encouraged participants to jot down their personal responses on separate paper hearts to take home. “I say, ‘Use it in your own prayer. Put it in your Bible. Each day you can look at it and ask yourself, ‘Today, do I need to pray in celebration and thanksgiving, or in sorrow and petition?’’’
Father Thom Hennen, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral and Synod representative for the Diocese of Davenport, gives kudos to Francione for the idea. “I think it is receiving a good response. It immediately grabs your attention when you walk into the gathering space. Many people have commented positively on it. I will admit, when I read the red side of the hearts (“What fills your heart?”) my heart is filled. And when I read the white/broken side of the heart (“What breaks your heart?”), it breaks my heart too, or at least reveals to me where our people are at and what directions we may need to go in terms of ministry or catechesis. I guess that is the whole point of the Synod!”
Blank hearts and pens are available in the gathering space where people write their responses anonymously and drop them into a box next to the supplies.
“That is another easy way to ‘listen’ along with the sessions we have been holding and the 58,000 Cups of Coffee initiative (one-on-one conversations),” Father Hennen said. “We will plan to keep the display up through the end of April, or maybe even a little beyond, to correspond with the diocesan phase of the Synod.”
Pope Francis opened Synod 2021-2023 last fall, inviting “the whole Church on a two-year journey of reflection and sharing of the whole Church.” The listening sessions in parishes, dioceses and communities worldwide are a response to this call to journey together, to discern how the Holy Spirit calls the faithful to share the joy of the Gospel in the third millennium.
For more information about how to participate in the Synod process, visit the diocesan website (davenportdiocese.org/synod-2023). Listening session reports are due April 30 on the diocesan website.