Synodal Process 2021-2023


By Susan Szalewski

The archdiocese evaluated the responses of more than 8,000
people who participated in the diocesan phase of a synod
called by Pope Francis, “Synod 2021-2023, for a Synodal Church.”

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On March 7, 2021, Pope Francis announced that the theme for the next ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2023 is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.” The synod is unique in that there is a two-year preparatory process that involves the entire Catholic Church – laity, clergy, and religious – and this process begins in the dioceses.  

Archbishop George Lucas celebrated Mass for the Opening of the Diocesan Phase on Sunday, October 17, 2021, at St. Cecilia Cathedral. As part of the diocesan phase, listening sessions for those on the peripheries (inmates, homeless, immigrants, etc.) were held.  During the month of February, everyone thirteen and older in northeast Nebraska was invited to complete a questionnaire about their experiences of participation in the life and mission of the Church. Listening sessions were also held by interested parishes and Catholic groups. A synthesis of the archdiocesan questionnaire and listening session results was submitted to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on June 7, 2022 as part of the world-wide synod process. The USCCB will summarize the diocesan syntheses in a final written presentation for the Vatican. The synod process will culminate with the Synod of Bishops meeting in October 2023.

The Synod is a process of spiritual discernment, of ecclesial discernment, that unfolds in adoration, in prayer and in dialogue with the word of God... [The word] guides the Synod, preventing it from becoming a Church convention, a study group or a political gathering, a parliament, but rather a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Spirit.
—  Pope Francis

Synod of Bishops Q&A

What is the Synod of Bishops?

A synod is a meeting of bishop delegates from around the world gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.

What does Pope Francis mean by “synodality?”

The term is generally understood to mean all members of the Catholic Church (clergy, laity, religious) participating in the evangelizing mission of the Church, journeying together as a community, and prayerfully listening to all members of the Church in order to discern the Holy Spirit’s voice.

Are synods rare events?

Ordinary synods happen every three years on issues voted upon by synod delegates elected or appointed from each continent, and from certain Vatican offices. There have been 15 ordinary synods to date. There are also extraordinary synods and special synods.

Are synods a recent creation?

The Synod of Bishops was created in 1965 by Pope Paul VI, who charted the synod to encourage close union between the pope and the world’s bishops and to “ensure that direct and real information is provided on questions and situations touching upon the internal action of the Church and its necessary activity in the world today.”

What is the purpose of the synod?

Pope Francis is asking Catholics worldwide to hear one another in order to listen to the Holy Spirit, work towards participating in the life and mission of the Church, gather as people of God to give voice to their experience in their local church, and imagine a different future for the Church. The purpose of this synod is not to produce more documents. According to the preparatory document, the synod "is intended to inspire people to dream about the church we are called to be, to make people's hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission."

What is the meaning behind the theme?

“Communion, Participation, and Mission” is designed as a journey that follows in the wake of the church's 'renewal' proposed by the Second Vatican Council. By journeying together and reflecting on the journey that has been made, the church will be able to learn through her experience which processes can help her live communion, achieve participation, and open herself to mission.

Will the Archdiocese of Omaha have a role in this worldwide process?

Archbishop George Lucas opened the diocesan phase of the synod October 17, 2021. The diocesan phase begins a two-year process culminating in the Synod of Bishops in October 2023. The Archdiocese of Omaha is engaging in nearly six months of discussions, or consultations, in which people from across northeast Nebraska are invited to participate. There are listening sessions for those on the peripheries (inmates, homeless, assisted living residents, immigrants, etc.) and interested parishes and Catholic groups as well as questions online for individuals to complete.

What happens to the archdiocese’s information?

Each diocese is being asked to submit a summary of local discussions in a ten-page (max) document by June 2022 to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The summary also will be published on this website. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will synthesize the diocesan summaries in a final written presentation for the Vatican.