By Patrick Schmadeke
Director of Evangelization
The Synod on Synodality calls us to be a Church that listens. The Church hasn’t always been good at this, so we need your help! We are learning how to listen by actually listening. More than 200 listening sessions with 2,600+ participants have happened across the diocese. These gatherings engage the already existing structures of the Church. Then we invented the 58,000 Cups of Coffee initiative, which invites people to engage the Synod through their personal relationships.
We felt like something was missing, so we’re adding another tool to our toolbox: #SynodVoices, a simple and anonymous way to share your personal experience of the Church. We want to offer a window into your experience, so we will highlight as many responses as we can on social media.
We adapted the idea from Grotto Network, a digital platform that produces content to build a bridge of trust between the Church and young adults who left the Church. Grotto Network has a regular series called #GrottoVoices. Participants anonymously submit one-sentence, handwritten responses to three prompts: I am a Catholic and______, I fear_______, and I hope_______. One response: I am a Catholic and an introvert, I fear many social interactions, but I also fear loneliness, I hope for deeper relationships. Another response: I am a Catholic father of a miscarried child, I fear that we don’t have better ways to acknowledge this kind of grief, I hope that we will remember the joy our child gave us in such a short time.
These responses are concrete, personal, relatable and easily applicable to the questions our diocese is asking for the Synod: “Based on your personal experience, what fills your heart and what breaks your heart about the Catholic Church?” We’ve adapted the questions for #SynodVoices to read: I’m a Catholic _________, It breaks my heart _________, It fills my heart _________.
There are two ways to participate. First, you can use a blank sheet of printer paper (white, unlined) and write three sentences with a strong and clear hand (consider using a fine-point sharpie). Then take a photo with the flash on and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Second, you can type your response via our online form at this website: bit.ly/3IFvoNx. We’ll hand-write and share as many response as we can on our social media outlets.
Another option: parishes could distribute note-card-sized printouts of the graphic after Mass and ask people to return their responses the following week. Collect responses in the collection basket and tape them to a wall.
#SynodVoices gives the faith community a chance to see itself with fresh eyes. Even in a small way, people get to learn from the experience of others. More importantly, and this is vital to a faith community, it reminds everyone that we all come to the Eucharist with unique experiences, unique hopes, and unique challenges.
(Patrick Schmadeke is Director of Evangelization for the Diocese of Davenport.)