Saint Mary’s Answers the Call for Synod

Pope Francis has invited every person in the world to let him know what they think of and hope for the Catholic Church, and Saint Mary’s is answering with a loud, resounding voice.Holy Spirit Chapel

This spring, the College invited all members of the Saint Mary’s community, of any faith, practicing or not, to join the conversation. The Synodal Listening Sessions provide at least 14 opportunities in February and March for students, faculty, and staff to participate. During this time, participants can share their experiences and hopes for the Church without judgment or argument.

“You don’t have to be Catholic. You don’t have to be Christian. You don’t have to be anything except human. Pope Francis wants you,” said Rev. Steve Newton, CSC, campus minister at Saint Mary’s.

Groups of about eight participants are working together to identify issues and ideas. Each participant answers the questions 1) What has been your experience of the Catholic Church? and 2) What would you tell Pope Francis the Church could/should be?

Jessica Coblentz, assistant professor of religious studies and theology, is helping Father Steve coordinate the sessions. Students from Coblentz’s class, “Catholic Faith and Life”, are serving as facilitators for many of the student sessions.

“Authentic conversations and encounters were central to Jesus’s ministry, as Pope Francis often reminds us,” Coblentz said. “I hope we can offer the gift of sincere accompaniment to one another through the synodal process. I hope that students who participate in these listening sessions feel welcomed and heard by others in the Saint Mary’s community.”

Following each session, the Synod team will synthesize the comments and send them, anonymously, to the local diocese, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and to Francis himself. In time, Francis will send the results to every bishop in the world for a meeting in Rome in 2023 when they will discern the Church in the Modern World once again.

Coblentz is optimistic about what is to come from these worldwide conversations.

“The synod is an exercise in listening to the Holy Spirit, who is the invisible presence of God at work in the world,” she said. “Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit resides in and works through all people—Catholics and others alike. That means that listening to the Holy Spirit entails listening to everyone.

“One thing the Church also teaches—and that we try to embody here at Saint Mary’s—is that we learn important truths from those who are different from us. The Church has learned much from other faith traditions and from people who are unaffiliated with religion altogether. The synod is another opportunity for this kind of listening and learning.”

It’s a monumental undertaking; a project that could impact Catholics for generations.

“This process might be the most crucial event in the life of the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council,” said Father Steve. “Actually, even 60 years later, it is putting flesh on the spirit of the council, acting on the council’s statements that the Church is not an institutional structure, but all the people of God. And its purpose is to work together—synodally—in making God’s reality of love, justice, and peace as present on earth as it is in eternity. The synodal process is unique in our history as a people—the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the entire world to have a voice is shaping the Church.”

For more information on the Synod Listening Sessions at Saint Mary’s, contact Campus Ministry at

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