Bishop Battersby: Like Detroit’s own synod, Vatican synod on synodality in 2023 will be about ‘missionary conversion’
DETROIT — The Archdiocese of Detroit is already on a path toward missionary conversion, and is uniquely poised to share its experiences with the wider Church as part of Pope Francis’ call for dioceses to participate in the 2023 Synod of Bishops on synodality, Auxiliary Bishop Gerard W. Battersby said.
Bishop Battersby, who chairs the archdiocese’s Unleash the Gospel Pastoral Council, celebrated a Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Oct. 17 as part of the opening of the diocesan phase of the worldwide Church’s synod, titled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”
"Synodality," which literally means "walking together," has become a key topic of Pope Francis' pontificate.
The basic idea in the pope's teaching is that the grace of baptism makes one part of the body of the Church and, therefore, responsible for its life and mission. In a hierarchical church, that shared responsibility calls for regular, serious and structural forums for listening to all members of the Church. At the same time, as the pope has said, it does not mean putting decisions to a vote as if a synod were a parliament.
Unique to the 2023 synod, the pope has asked dioceses around the world to kick off a period of local participation starting Oct. 17, soliciting feedback from the faithful in preparation for the bishops’ discussions in October 2023.
“What is the Holy Father asking of the entire Church in this synod? He’s asking us to go on mission,” Bishop Battersby said in his homily during the opening Mass, titled “Listening to the Holy Spirit.” “He’s asking us to cast as wide a net as possible so that every variety of persons may be drawn, to cast it so wide that no one is left behind.”
Bishop Battersby noted that the Archdiocese of Detroit is well ahead of the curve, having hosted a local synod in 2016 that addressed many of the same themes the worldwide Church is now taking up.
“What Pope Francis is asking of us in this preparatory period, the diocesan phase of the synod, is what Archbishop (Allen H.) Vigneron charged the archdiocese in his pastoral letter, ‘Unleash the Gospel,’” Bishop Battersby said. “It is what we have been purposely about these past eight years in the AOD and we continue to embrace in families of parishes.”
Bishop Battersby said the key to understanding the role of “synodality” in the Church is to understand each individual Catholic’s call to mission through his or her baptism.
“We are not only a people who share in Christ’s identity in our baptism, but in baptism and with the grace of the Holy Spirit given to us in the sacrament of confirmation, we, too, share in His mission,” Bishop Battersby said. “And this is where Synod 16 and the Synod on Synodality all come together.”
“Missionary conversion is at the heart of unleashing the Gospel, and it’s also what Pope Francis is proposing for the universal Church,” Bishop Battersby added.
Detroit’s Synod 16 “anticipates and envisions what the Holy Spirit wants to do for the entire Church,” Bishop Battersby said. Namely, he said, “it is about evangelization.”
Because of the local Church’s recently completed synodal process, which included a long period of intense discernment, input and consultation from the lay faithful, the Archdiocese of Detroit will share its experiences with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as it collects response from across the country in advance of the Vatican synod, Bishop Battersby said.
Bishop Battersby said the local Church will continue to mine and cultivate the fruits of its own synod, “which brought us to embrace anew our baptismal identity.”
“This present synod, echoing our own Synod 16, is really about becoming like our Jesus, being conformed to his identity and to his mission to His Father’s plan for all creation,” Bishop Battersby said.