Called to live in a spirit of synodality

“I found this retreat to be a ‘Pentecost’ experience.  Sr. Diane Bergant’s presentations were like a steady wind filling the conference room (no hot air!).”

The comment is from Fr. Guy Blair, SCJ, one of 25 participants in last week’s retreat for those in active ministry.  “Synodality” was the theme of the days, and it was led by Sr. Dianne Bergant, CSA, professor emerita in Old Testament Studies at Catholic Theological Union (just one of many listings on her curriculum vitae).

We asked several of the participants to share their reflections on the experience.

“Sr. Dianne’s linking of synodality to our shared lives as SCJs was creative and insightful,” continued Fr. Guy.  “She challenged our listening to one another not as a process but of being aware of the Holy Spirit in one another. Br. Duane Lemke’s Adoration service in which he used unconventional music – including birdsong – was also a breath of fresh air.”

Sr. Dianne

Nothing more important than bringing the love of God to people

“Sr. Dianne helped me to understand how to live in synodality with people, but especially with the community,” wrote Frater Hung Pham, SCJ. “One of the purposes of synodality is to establish the reign of God on earth, echoing the words of Fr. Dehon: ‘Adveniat Regnum Tuum’, thy kingdom come. Nothing is more important than bringing the love of God to people.

“Furthermore, synodality helps us to recognize that through baptism, we are called to participate in the mission that God has given and commanded us. To be able to establish the reign of God, we are called to live together, to participate in the needs of people, and especially, to bring the Good News to people so that together we are able to build the kingdom of God.

“We are called as Dehonians to live in the spirit of love and reparation, in a spirit of synodality.”

Fr. Joseph Thien Dinh, SCJ, wrote that he appreciated the time with fellow SCJs to “reflect on our commitment as member Priests of the Sacred Heart. With Sr. Dianne’s guidance, we renewed our commitment to our religious community, our commitment to participating in the life of the province and congregation. We were commissioned to conform the world to the Heart of Christ.”

Synodality is a process, a journey together

“Coming from a French tradition where people sometimes talk a lot without concision, I loved Sr. Dianne’s presentations,” wrote Fr. Floribert Bulo Dhelo, a Congolese SCJ preparing for ministry in the US Province. “Her presentations were with words that were short, clear, and extremely consistent. She defined synodality as a process, a journeying together. This means clearly for me that synodality is not just an ideological concept but a practical possibility. However, we need to make the decision to start or to continue this journey.”

Fr. Floribert continued, reflecting on the three primary characteristics of synodality as outlined by Pope Francis: communion or community, participation and mission.

“From our birth we are community,” wrote Fr. Floribert. “No one was born by himself. Communion is a real gift and blessing. Participation means listening, dialogue, and working toward a common decision. As Jesus gives himself to establish the reign of God, we are called to give ourselves and receive each other. And we are all missionaries through baptism. To be a missionary means to serve, to put God’s will in practice. We are a special gift because God gives us to Jesus for his mission. So, whatever we do must be in the image of Christ.

The Spirit works in each of us. But, to hear this voice, we need prayer and must ask ourselves the ‘WHY’ question. ‘Why am I here now, what is my purpose? Asking ‘why’ opens doors for us to hear the voice the Spirit within us.”

Fr. Henry Nguyen, SCJ, echoed the words of Fr. Floribert: “And WHY? Since coming home from the retreat I’ve been pondering this in my heart, a reflection of communion, participation, and mission. Although we are all called to holiness and mission, for us Dehonians there’s a greater call to be available and present to one another.”

Fr. Rafael Querobin, SCJ, organizer of the retreat

Synodality through the lens of Dehonian spirituality

“During my personal prayer and meditation, I focused on understanding synodality through the lens of Dehonian spirituality and charism,” wrote Fr. Joseph Mukuna, SCJ, the recently appointed director of the North American Dehon Study Center. “I discovered the connection between synodality and Sint Unum. The key concepts are intimacy with God and oneness with each other. I was reminded that through the vows, I am bound to other SCJs to advance the reign of the Sacred Heart in the hearts and societies.

“Reflecting on synodality led me to see SCJ community life differently. As a disciple of Fr. Dehon, I was encouraged to draw from the wisdom of elders and other brothers in the community, to learn how to live together in this world, and preach the Gospel in line with the virtues of the Sacred Heart (mercy, steadfastness, love, and compassion). This experience has helped me recognize the importance and privilege of being an SCJ. It has sparked a strong sense of responsibility and a renewed dedication to assess my participation in the congregation’s mission. This invitation deeply resonated with me and strongly appealed to my sense of duty and understanding of Ecce venio.

“The retreat also reminded me that there is only one mission: to make known God’s name and the one he sends to save the world. These four days of retreat were not just a learning period but a transformative experience. They helped me to understand synodality as a ‘Dehonian Pentecost.’ Just as the original Pentecost was a turning point for the Apostles, this retreat on synodality was a call for RENEWAL, a search for new ways of being an SCJ and doing mission. It was an invitation to live out the Spirit, to ‘get out of the sacristy,’ and work for the transformation of the world.”

Click here to view a photo album from the last day of the retreat.

Retreat participants