Report on the Archdiocesan Listening Sessions for the Continental Synod

Jan. 22, 2023 Report on the Archdiocesan Listening Sessions for the Continental Synod


In place of my usual Bulletin Column, I, Fr. Kevin, wanted to share the following report on the Listening Sessions from Archbishop Michael Jackels (next week I will share some of my own reflections upon this):

To prepare our six delegates from the Archdiocese of Dubuque for the North American Continent assembly, of the Synod on Synodality (a virtual event held at various times in December of 2022 and January 2023) a listening session was held in each deanery of the Archdiocese of Dubuque …. There were also two sessions in Spanish.

The listening sessions were limited to one hour in the evening; a limit was imposed in order to respect people’s time, but not to control or restrict interventions. Approximately 400 people prayed, spoke and listened respectfully, were grateful for the opportunity, and offered comments in response to the three questions:

  1. What attracts you to the Catholic Faith and to be active in your parish?
  2. What Church teaching or practice makes you feel unwelcome, alienated or angry?
  3. What topics should the Pope discuss and decide at the October 2023 Synod?

All the responses to these questions were recorded. Of particular interest are the themes proposed for the Pope to discuss and decide at the October 2023 Synod assembly; we want our delegates to share these during the Continental assembly.

Therefore, due to the number of dioceses/delegates (267/1500+) involved, and brief time delegates have for sharing, we had to synthesize the responses to Question 3:

The teachings of the Catholic Church: Some people ask the Pope to hold the line against pressure to change teaching (read: the German bishops), saying that not all change is good. But others see a need for change, and ask the Pope to re-examine Church teachings on divorce and remarriage, birth control, LGBTQ issues, and women’s ordination. Some also ask that the Church’s social teaching be given more attention. We need to find a way to preserve Catholic teaching, while finding a way to be more welcoming, accepting of diversity.

The liturgy of the Catholic Church: The Mass and Holy Communion are important and attractive to Catholics. Not all however are on the same page with regard to whether or not anyone should be publicly refused Holy Communion, or regarding the present Mass vs. the pre-Vatican II Mass, and about the use of contemporary music at Mass or Gregorian chant in Latin. The Pope should consider teaching about the Mass in a way that people in the pews can understand. There was also appreciation expressed for the importance of the Sacrament of Confession, and the need to promote it more.

Ministry in the Church: We need to be more intentional about praying for priestly vocations, and inviting young people to discern a call from God. Some ask that there be further discussion about ordaining women to the diaconate and priesthood, as well as allowing married men to be ordained priests. Those who are authorized to preach need to receive good instruction, and be better prepared before they get into the pulpit.

Being missionary disciples: People are concerned that, after the pandemic, attendance at Sunday Mass is less than before, and fear that it will become even less in the future because of the small number of young people at Mass. It’s said that young people are looking for something worth living and dying for, so they need to be offered the full Gospel as preached by the Catholic Church. Parents need formation on how to pass on the faith to their children in a Catholic home, as well as the Church’s help by providing Catholic schools and faith formation programming. We need to be more intentional about building a community of Catholic believers, especially being more welcoming to minorities, people on the peripheries (such as gays, divorced and remarried), those who are alienated from the Church, and those who are searching.

People who made comments for the deanery listening sessions might not recognize their comments in this synthesis, but they were heard, and what they said is somehow included, as far as that was possible.