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The Spirit Moves: Reflection on the National Synodal Consultation

by Maria Rita Reyes Cucio

Lay Delegate to the National Synodal Consultation, Diocese of Malolos

Photos from the Facebook of Fr. Carlo del Rosario and Synod on Synodality: Diocese of Malolos

The days of July 4-7, 2022 marked a milestone in the life of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. During these four blessed days, over 200 delegates consisting of bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and lay people gathered at the Carmelite Missionaries Center of Spirituality in Tagaytay City to participate in the National Synodal Consultation organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. This Synodal process was animated by a number of activities such as the presentation of the synodal consultation outcomes of all ecclesiastical provinces, plenary sessions and small group sharing, communal prayers and activities, and Eucharistic celebrations. It provided the participants with a meaningful and fruitful Synodal experience that allowed us to dialogue, discern, and worship together. The interaction among the participants is both engaging and enlightening, enabling us to recognize the sacred in our encounter of the Church. The rich diversity of the People of God in the Philippines manifested the essence of a Church journeying together in the spirit of synodality.

It was underscored in this Synod that the Church has always been synodal, and it was indeed a grace-filled juncture in Church history that we were able to witness and affirm her synodality in its fullness. For most of us who were blessed to participate in the Synodal process from the diocesan to the metropolitan and national phases, the Synod was an experience that re-ignited our deep love for the Church. The Church, in her wounded state and in her healing presence, was profoundly felt, appreciated, confronted, and celebrated. It was indeed a Eucharistic experience for us as we allowed our faith stories to be shared with our brothers and sisters, and to let ourselves be equally edified and inspired by their personal accounts of encounter with the Church. The Synodal process also gave us the opportunity to once and for all envision a Church that is all-embracing, especially to those in the existential peripheries, as the voices of the various sectors in our society were amplified through this Synod.

Taken, blessed, broken, and given (Mk. 14: 22). These words described what it was like to be a participant in the Synodal process. An overwhelming sense of gratitude was prevalent among us participants for having been taken and chosen among millions of Filipino Catholics to represent our respective dioceses in this consultation. It was a joyful and humbling experience to sit next to bishops and priests, relate with them in an open and prayerful atmosphere, interact with a community of profoundly committed consecrated persons and lay people, and rekindle in our hearts the fundamental truth that we are the Church. The Synod was an invitation for us to once again embrace the essence of being co-responsible in the mission of the Church.

We were also blessed by the preaching of the ordained ministers who presided over the Eucharistic celebrations. We were sanctified by the stories shared by the participants during the small group sharing. “Ang ganda ng sharing mo,” was a thought that we found ourselves frequently verbalizing as we immersed ourselves in every story we listened to, recognizing the pivotal role the Church and our faith have played in our respective journeys. We celebrated how uniquely yet comfortingly familiar the Spirit moved in our lives as Catholics.

Our hearts were collectively broken as we listened to and humbly acknowledged the wounds of our Church --- from the abuses of those in authority, the clericalism of both clergy and lay people, the exclusivity that tainted our parishes, the prejudice and discrimination felt by the marginalized, the seeming lack of integrity of both ordained ministers and lay people, among others --- that undermined her corporal and spiritual works of mercy. These realizations motivated us to examine ourselves and reflect on how we have been enablers of these structures of sin in our local churches. These also strengthened our resolve to think of ways that will gradually rectify these practices and foster reforms that bring forth forgiveness and healing to those that have been neglected and wounded by the Church. Indeed, it is from this brokenness that the light of God’s mercy emanates.

As we partook in these blessings of being Church, we also experienced being given away as we shared with each other those parts in the core of our being that manifest the God-in-us and the God-with-us. The Synodal process created a safe space for us to ponder on and communicate about the many paradoxes of being intimately united with the Church. As we gave of ourselves to this process, we received the generosity, compassion, friendship, and inspiration of a Spirit-led community.

The opportunity to be a part of the Synodal process was a life-defining moment that moved us all to embrace our Holy Mother Church in her fullness. It propelled us to be relentless in our pursuit of an inclusive Church as faithful stewards and co-responsible shepherds that have, to quote Pope Francis, the smell of the sheep. Truly a Pentecost experience, the Spirit, through this Synod, emboldened us to persevere in our journey towards a deeper sense of communion, participation, and mission for all.

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