Academic year kicks off with lay leadership program on Synodality

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A synodal-style Church will require more preparation of lay men and women to lead ecclesial projects and communities, as well as an ability to work with people at different levels and in different contexts in a participatory way.

Academic year kicks off with lay leadership program on Synodality

A synodal-style Church will require more preparation of lay men and women to lead ecclesial projects and communities, as well as an ability to work with people at different levels and in different contexts in a participatory way. With that in mind — and with the objective of forming new lay leaders — The Lay Centre held a weeklong formation program, from Sept. 26 to 30, titled “On the Way: Crossing the threshold of a synodal Church.”

The pilot program, part of a series of training initiatives for lay people organized by The Lay Centre, recognized the need to discuss the role of the laity in the Church and in the world, to find concrete ways to implement co-responsibility among all members of the Church and to commit to “walking together” on this journey. The resident community will continue to reflect on this topic during the current academic year.

Program participants were the members of the 2022-2023 Lay Centre community, who came to Rome from 10 different countries to begin their academic studies or to volunteer in the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

Topics discussed during the week included the concept of synodality and the challenges of putting it into practice; the concept of mission and the relationship of the Church with a pluralistic society; individual, family and collective discernment in the life of lay Catholics; the role and presence of lay people in the Church and how Catholic education can promote the formation of new leaders; collaboration between lay and religious people, including young people involved in social action and specifically as regards human trafficking.

"Crossing the threshold of a synodal Church" is the image that best represents a community that walks together in a constant spirit of prayer and discernment, which Pope Francis in a series of reflections said is “indispensable for living.”

Photo: Meeting with Dr. Emilce Cuda, at the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, about mission and the culture of encounter.

On the first day, participants made a short pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Basilica, taking with them the prayer intentions collected via The Lay Centre’s email and social media and offering them at Mass, celebrated near the Tomb of St. Peter by Bishop Paul Tighe, secretary of the former Pontifical Council for Culture and a member of the Dicastery for Bishops.

After Mass, Lay Centre Deputy Director Filipe Domingues set the stage for the weeklong program during a session held in the office of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He emphasized the importance of taking the first steps as a community toward preparing to be participative and active in a Church that adopts a synodal style. The session included a discussion with Argentinian theologian and lay woman Emilce Cuda, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, on “encounter as a mission” in the cultural landscapes of the Catholic Church in the Global North and the Global South. 

The program examined the different challenges posed by synodality through the contribution of Father Daniel Patrick Huang, S.J., professor of missiology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Missionaries and members of the Christian Life Community, Alwin Macalalad and his wife, Rojean, spoke about discernment in ordinary life, giving witness to how discernment applied to their personal journeys. Alwin works for the Listening and Dialogue Section of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development as the delegate for Asia and Oceania; Rojean is the executive director of the Catholic Safeguarding Institute.

Father John Dardis, S.J., general counselor for discernment and apostolic planning for the Society of Jesus, gave an introduction on “Spiritual Conversation” and celebrated Mass. He recalled that God is waiting to work in each person and “leadership is about ensuring that generative listening and speaking take place.”

The program closed with a concrete example of the international coordination team of the anti-human trafficking network Talitha Kum, represented by Sister Abby Avelino, M.M., and Marion Paparella. They spoke about how young people can become ambassadors of social justice.

Photo: Participants of the Lay Leadership Program in St. Peter's Square, with Bishop Paul Tighe

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