Synodal Summit: The journey to ‘put out into deep water’

Anne Marie Amacher
Bishop Thomas Zinkula greets people after the Chrism Mass April 3 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

A diocesan journey of discovery and discernment that began four years ago with Vision 20/20, paused during the pandemic, and resumed during the Diocesan Synod now embarks on its next leg June 17 with a Synodal Summit at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. There, several-hundred people representing the diocese’s parishes, schools and other entities will gain insights on how the local (diocesan) Church can grow as a welcoming Church that engenders a sense of belonging.

“It is important that we get out of our siloed parishes and schools and collaborate as a diocese on important issues that we, together, have identified through the synodal process as pressing needs,” Bishop Thomas Zinkula said. “As Jesus said, ‘Where two or three [parishes and schools] are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’” (Mt. 18:20).

Vision 20/20 provided the soil in which the seeds of the Rediscovering Sunday survey (2021) and Diocesan Synod listening sessions (2022) took root. The seeds have sprouted in the responses of the faithful of the diocese expressing their hopes and concerns for their Church. The plants are growing, emerging as three pressing themes from the survey and the attentive listening sessions: welcoming and belonging, youth and family engagement, and Church teaching and tradition.


Each theme, one per year, will be the focus of efforts in parishes, schools and other diocesan entities. Welcoming and belonging is the first theme, launching in June with the Synodal Summit. It is an opportunity to “reflect together on how the Holy Spirit is calling us to be better missionary disciples in our living, celebrating, teaching and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Zinkula said.

He hopes participants will take away from the Synodal Summit “an experience of the Holy Spirit moving within them and our diocese, calling us to respond more actively — lovingly, joyfully, communally and faithfully — to our baptismal call to be missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. I am hopeful that during the next year, we will follow Jesus’ command to his disciples to ‘put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch’ (Lk. 5:4) and that when we do we too will have a great catch.”

“I think the importance of the upcoming Synodal Summit is to show that the Synod process did not end when the listening sessions were done,” said Father Thom Hennen, diocesan vicar general and pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. “We heard from our people…. Now we are doing something that will hopefully have great impact at the parish and community level.”

The Synodal Summit will feature panels focusing on communion, participation and mission, the three themes of the worldwide Synod of Bishops on Synodality that Pope Francis will convene in October. The diocesan Synodal Summit panelists will share their insights on welcoming and belonging within their ministries to parishes, schools and the greater community.

Fr. Hennen

“Those selected by their parishes to attend the summit are likely already those who get welcoming and belonging,” Father Hennen said. “The goal is to hear and share ideas and to send (the representatives) back energized to work collaboratively with clergy and parish staff to begin to implement some of those ideas.”

“This summit is important to me because it addresses one of the biggest challenges we have in our Church today: welcoming people and helping them feel like they belong,” said


John Cooper, pastoral associate and business manager of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport.

His involvement with the diocese’s Rediscovering Sunday survey and helping to synthesize feedback from the Diocesan Synod listening sessions gave him a wider perspective of the faithful’s needs. “I was amazed at the importance placed on being welcomed or not feeling welcomed. Our diocese’s decision to do something about the feedback we received gives me hope. Working together through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can open our hearts wider.”

Lindsay Steele
Emily Pries, executive secretary to the bishop, exchanges a “thumbs up” with Father Bill Roush, pastor of parishes in Richmond, Riverside and Wellman, outside Galvin Fine Arts Center during Vision 20/20 June 6, 2019 at St. Ambrose University of Davenport.

Cooper will serve as a panelist during the Synod, speaking about his parish’s efforts to be more welcoming and to engender a greater sense of belonging. He will highlight the welcoming of the Hispanic community of St. Mary Parish, which merged with St. Anthony Parish. Asked what he hopes participants take away from the summit, Cooper said: “If welcoming is one of our main challenges as a Church, I accept that as good news because we can do something about it. It is within our power to come away from this synodal gathering committed to making the changes necessary to create a new spirit of welcoming and belonging in our parishes.”

“The Catholic Church is a global Church, made up of all the priests and lay people around the world. It is our Church,” said Tommy Hexter, a member of St. Mary Parish in Grinnell who serves on the Diocesan Pastoral Commission. “The Synodal Summit is a chance to reimagine what we, as the body of Christ and the body of the Church, can sow as seeds of growth and belonging. The projects and initiatives that the summit will inspire are the bountiful harvests of the Church, of us and our future (generations).”

He hopes to take away from the Synodal Summit “a feeling of agency to ‘ask not what the Church can do for me but what I can do for the Church’ and to know how I can help build the Church that we as a diocesan community collectively dream of.”


Diocesan Evangelization Director Patrick Schmadeke views the importance of the Synodal Summit from both a diocesan Church and a domestic church perspective. “It’s important that my kids find a home in the Church,” he said. He hopes the summit “inspires people to come together as communities. Many people are experiencing loneliness right now. This is something we can reflect on and address in our personal and professional lives.”

“Just as synodality does not end with the upcoming Synods in Rome in 2023 and 2024, ‘Welcoming and Belonging’ certainly does not end with the summit,” Father Hennen said. “The hope is that this theme and these practices will carry forward long into the future. The next two themes, Youth and Family Engagement and Church Teaching and Tradition, will build on this theme.”

Inspiration for the tent imagery

To the people in exile the prophet’s words evokes the experience of the exodus, when they dwelt in tents, and announces the promise of the return to the land, a sign of joy and hope. To prepare, it is necessary to enlarge the tent, acting on the three elements of its structure.

The first is the tent cloth, which protects from the sun, wind and rain, delineating a space of life and conviviality. They need to be spread out, so that they can also protect those who are still outside this space, but who feel called to enter it.

The ropes that hold the cloths together are the second structural element of the tent. They must balance the tension needed to keep the tent from drooping with the softness that cushions movement caused by the wind. That is why if the tent expands, the ropes must be stretched to maintain the right tension.

Finally, the pegs are the third element: they anchor the structure to the ground and ensure its solidarity, but remain capable of moving when the tent must be pitched elsewhere.

From the Working Document for the Continental Stage of the Synod on Synodality: “Enlarge the space of your tent.”

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