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Synod and family, communication skills are the same

For almost two years, the Church has been actively engaged in a process of listening and discernment. Maybe you participated in the synodal conversations in your parish, maybe not. Maybe you’ve discussed topics with friends or colleagues, maybe not. But very soon, this Synod on Synodality, which opened on October 18, 2021, will enter its next phase: a gathering at the Vatican that uniquely brings together clergy and laity to continue being synodal.

“The Synod is about dialogue: between the baptized, between members of the Church, about the life of the Church, about dialogue with the world, about the problems that affect humanity today,” said Pope Francis during a press conference on September 4.

Work document : In preparation for this dialogue scheduled for October 4-29, an Instrumentum Laboris (IL), or working document, was published last summer as a starting point for the conversation, as is customary before synodal meetings.

“The IL is not a document of the Holy See, but of the whole Church,” said Cardinal Mario Grech, general secretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod, when the document was first published. “It’s not a document written on a desk. It is a document of which all are co-authors, each for the role they are called to play in the Church, in docility to the Spirit. … You will not find in the text a systematic theoretical explanation of synodality, but the fruit of an ecclesial experience, of a path in which we have all learned more by walking together and questioning the meaning of this experience.

The worksheets within the IL will serve as prompts for discussion for synod delegates, with the invocation of the Holy Spirit, on all manner of topics affecting the life of the Church today. Even with limited media access, it’s sure to be an interesting few weeks.

What is particularly interesting to me as a communicator is that, fundamentally, this synod requires good communication skills from its participants. They need to know when to speak and when not to speak. They need to understand how to make a point or observation effectively and concisely. They must listen with empathy and respect. They should be polite, but honest. They must be fully in the present moment, without planning their response in the middle of another’s intervention. These are the skills needed for successful conversations and communication – for synodality to realize its potential.

Family synodality: It’s kind of like how we should function in a family, right? Love requires wanting the good of the other, not the good of ourselves — and that means we must be more interested in what the other has to say than in this excellent point we ourselves must make pass.

“In the family we learn to embrace and support each other, to discern the meaning of facial expressions and moments of silence, to laugh and cry together with people who did not choose each other and who nevertheless are so important to us. for each other,” said the Pope. Francis in his message for the 49th World Communications Day in 2015, one of his favorites. “This greatly helps us understand the meaning of communication as recognition and creation of proximity. When we close the distance by coming closer and accepting one another, we experience gratitude and joy.

Of course, we are not always good at good communication – in our homes, in our society, in our church. We are not always good at taking the best from those who speak to us, nor at being truly open to what others have to say. But this is how bridges are built, and this is how communion is achieved.

As synod delegates gather in Rome for the month of October, they have a unique opportunity to model and practice excellent communication. They have the possibility, as the Rule of Saint Benedict dictates, “to listen with the ear of the heart”.

Please join me in praying not only for effective discernment of God’s will for the Church, but also for truly excellent communication among all who represent it next month.

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