FutureChurch Summary and Review of the Final North American Synod Document

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) issued the North American Final Document for the Continental Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission on April 12th. Along with the contributions of the six other Continental Assemblies, this document, will form the basis of the Instrumentum Laboris to be released by the General Secretariat of the Synod in June 2023 which will guide the Synod Assembly in Rome in October 2023/2024.

FutureChurch co-director, Deborah Rose, shares information about how the document came together, synthesizes and reviews the important points in the document, and discusses what’s next in the synod process.

More Resources

Just Church with Dr. Phyllis Zagano

Dr. Phyllis Zagano joins FutureChurch to discuss her new book, Just Church Catholic Social Teaching, Synodality, and Women(Paulist Press)Dr. Zagano also address the news that Pope Francis has opened up full voting membership in the October 2023 Synod Assembly to women and takes questions from the community.

Dr. Zagano is Senior Research Associate-in-Residence and Adjunct Professor of Religion at Hofstra University. On August 2, 2016, Pope Francis appointed her to the Papal Commission for the Study of Women in the Diaconate, which convened in Rome November 2016. Visit her website to learn more about Dr. Zagano’s extensive body of work and for study and teacher guides of some of her recent books.

Letter to North American Writing Team

Approximately 150 Catholics from the United States and Canada came together for two gatherings hosted by FutureChurch in January 2023 to pray and reflect on the Continental Stage Document.

These responses were offered after two evenings of prayer, listening to Scripture, a review of the Continental Stage Document, small group discussions, and written reflections. The participants were guided by the three questions posed in Part IV of the Continental Stage Document:

  1. After having read and prayed with the DCS, which intuitions resonate most strongly with the lived experiences and realities of the Church in your continent? Which experiences are new or illuminating to you?
  2. After having read and prayed with the DCS, what substantial tension or divergences emerge as particularly important in your continent’s perspective? What are the questions or issues that should be addressed and considered in the next steps of the process?
  3. After having read and prayed with the DCS, looking at what emerges from the previous two questions, what are the priorities, recurring themes and calls to action that can be shared with other local Churches around the world and discussing during the First Session of the Synodal Assembly in October 2023?

Letter to Continental Synthesis Writing Team with Addendum

Synod Continental Discernment Session

Participants came together in prayer, to listen, dialogue, and discern if the Continental Phase Document authentically reflects our concerns, hopes, and priorities for the future of the Church.

Read the letter we submitted to the North American Synthesis Writing team based on your input.

Session One: Toward a Missionary Synodal Church

FutureChurch hosts the first of two sessions dedicated to discerning the contents of the Synod Continental Phase Document, Enlarge the Space of your Tent. After song, scripture, and prayer, FutureChurch co-director, Deborah Rose offers a summary of the context of the document and the contents of section three, “Towards a missionary synodal church.”

“All Are Welcome” by Marty Haugen. Copyright 1994 by GIA Publications Inc. Music displayed and streamed with permission under OneLicense #A-737115.

Additional Resources:

  • Continental Phase Document Read More. (It would be very helpful to read Section III as completely as possible)
  • Highlights and notes from Section I, II, and III of the Continental Phase Document (Deb Rose’s slides) Read more
  • Summary of FutureChurch Synods Sessions – What Our Participants Said. Read more
  • In Our Own Words Full Synod Report Read more
  • Prayers used for this session Read more
  • FutureChurch Questionnaire (now closed)

Session Two:

FutureChurch hosts the second of two sessions dedicated to discerning the contents of the Synod Continental Phase Document, Enlarge the Space of your Tent. After song, scripture, and prayer, FutureChurch co-director, Deborah Rose offers a summary of the responses provided last week’s participants and invites participants to discern the three questions asked of the Synthesis drafting team:

  • Which intuitions resonate most strongly with the lived experiences and realities of the Church in your continent?  Which experiences are new or illuminating to you?
  • What substantial tensions or divergences emerge as particularly important in your continent’s perspective?  Consequently, what are the questions or issues that should be addressed and considered in the net steps of the process? 
  • Looking at what emerges from the previous two questions, what are the priorities, recurring themes and calls to action that can be shared with other local Churches around the world and discussed during the First Session of the Synodal Assembly in October 2023?

“Sing a New Church” by Delores Dufner, OSB, © 1991, The Sisters of St. Benedict. Published by OCP. All rights reserved. Music: J. Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part II, 1813. Music displayed and streamed with permission under OneLicense #A-737115.

Additional Resources:

  • Continental Phase Document Read More.
  • Overview of participant responses to week one (Deb’s slides) Read more
  • FutureChurch Questionnaire (Now Closed)
  • Opening Scripture and Prayer Read More.


A Study of Synodality

Join us as we discuss synodality, what it means for each of us, our communities and parishes, and the wider church.  Our main text will be “Synodality: A New Way of Proceeding in the Church” authored by Vatican Synod consultant Professor Rafael Luciani.

We will gather for three weeks in October (4, 11, 18) at 12noon ET for prayer, expert guidance, small group discussions, and actions we can take to make synodality a greater reality.

[caldera_form_modal id=”CF631a6db3d8663″]Register for These Sessions [/caldera_form_modal]

Session One: From Pastoral Conversion to Synodal Conversion

Read Chapters 1 – 4

According to Prof. Luciani, We are experiencing a crisis in the transformation of faith because we are still mired in a clerical institutional model.

As he notes, Yves Congar was one of the giants at the Second Vatican Council who understood most clearly that the clericalist institutional church desperately needed reforming.  And Pope Francis has made overcoming it a cornerstone of his papacy saying to priests, “Clericalism is a true perversion in the Church…Clericalism condemns, separates, frustrates, and despises the people of God.”

Synodality is the re-structuring principle that transforms the Church from a Western, monocultural Church, centered on Rome and its primacy, to a global and intercultural Church, opening the way to recognize the authority of the local church.

Additional Media

Session Two: Synodality and the People of God

Read Chapters 5 – 8

The Second Vatican Council reinscribed the centrality of the church as thee “People of God.”  Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens, the principal architect of Lumen Gentium, described it as a rediscovery of the people of God as a whole, as a single reality” with each member of the church sharing co-responsibility for the life and work of the Church.

However, in the 1980s the blossoming of this newfound way of being was thwarted by a pope who, once again, emphasized the primacy of the hierarchy subordinating the “sense of the faithful.”  Regressive policies and teachings undercut the reformist principles of Vatican II.

With his constant emphasis on synodality, Pope Francis wants to make take the church forward making this exercise of authority as the work of the entire People of God a constitutive ecclesial dimension and way of proceeding for this third millennium.


FC Powerpoint for Chapters 5 – 8 

Kelly Meraw’s synod resources (click below)

Synod 2021 – 2023

Session Three: Synodality and the Local Churches

Read Chapters 9, 10, & Conclusion

Although, under the papacy of John Paul II, there was a progressive deflation of the value of the local church as normative for interpreting tradition, theology, and faith, Pope Francis has emphasized that we become a “listening church” so that the People of God can be heard in their ” particular place and time” in order to know what the Spirit is saying and how to proceed.

In order to allow the Spirit to move us into this new phase of synodality, we must move into a new creative phase of receiving and implementing the Second Vatican Council.

How will this principle translate into new realities?  That is the work we are undertaking today!

The video for this session will not be posted here at the request of our speaker.  It has been sent to all the participants signed up for this study.  To learn more contact debrose@futurechurch.org.

FC Powerpoint for Synodality Book Study Part III, Chapters 9, 10 & conclusion

Synodality study –  Participant responses to what they learned

Fertile Ground: The Synod, Vatican II, and the Future of the Church

Sr. Maureen Sullivan, OP joins FutureChurch for another engaging four-week series exploring Vatican II documents as the foundation for the 2023 Synod. As we get more familiar with the documents of Vatican II and engage in the synod process, we make the Second Vatican Council a greater reality today.

Dr. Maureen Sullivan is a Dominican Sister of Hope from New York and Professor Emerita of Theology at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire. She received her master of arts in Theology from Manhattan College in the Bronx and her PhD in Theology from Fordham University, also in the Bronx. The Second Vatican Council, along with its impact on our Church, is at the center of her theological research. She has written two books on this topic: 101 Questions and Answers on Vatican II (2002) and The Road to Vatican II: Key Changes in Theology (2007), both published by Paulist Press.

Session One: Vatican II and Synodality

In this first session, Sr. Maureen provides a foundation, exploring Vatican II and synodality. Ongoing sessions will explore a number of Vatican II documents in depth and come to understand how Vatican II serves as the foundation for the upcoming Synod on Communion, Participation, and Mission. 



Session Two: Dignitatis Humanae and Synodality

In this second session, Sr. Maureen discusses the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty – Dignitatis Humanae – and how it lays a foundation for the Synod on Synodality.



Session Three: Dei Verbum and Synodality

In this third session, Sr. Maureen discusses the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Divine Revelation – Dei Verbum – and how our understanding of Scripture and Tradition bolster a synodal vision of Church.


Session Four: The Legacy of Vatican II

In this fourth and final presentation, Sr. Maureen discusses the legacy of Vatican II as an unfolding reality that the Synod on Synodality continues today.




In Our Own Words: FutureChurch’s Synod Report

Over the course of six weeks in Lent, nearly 600 Catholics from the United States and around the world, took part in FutureChurch’s synod listening sessions. Representing more than 170 Dioceses, they told their stories of faith and perseverance and shared their doubts, hopes, and dreams for a synodal Church. Below, you will find our full report. The report summarizes data from multiple choice questions and highlights recurring themes. Each of the included appendices details the written responses to open-ended questions of each and every participant.

View the Report

Please click on the rectangular “full screen” icon in the bottom right hand corner, to view. 

Download a PDF

Sean Gargamelli-McCreight’s Synod Witness on Faith and Public Life

FutureChurch board vice chair and co-founder of Benincasa Community offered this reflection on faith and public life for FutureChurch’s Lenten Synod Sessions for the 2023 Synod on Synodality. View the pre-recorded video, download a PDF, or read the text below.

Download PDF

For the cry of the Earth and the cry of the Poor

Hello, my name is Sean Gargamelli-McCreight, and I am a member of Benincasa Community, a lay catholic community founded in the tradition of religious life and the Catholic Worker movement in New York City in 2015 and now also based as an emerging eco-spiritual center in Guilford, CT. As a community of believers dedicated to the works of mercy and justice in our Church and world, the question of how to live out a faith that does justice is everat the forefront of our hearts and minds. In our practice together, we attempt to listen to the sacred revelations found in creation and the life of Jesus.

In today’s scripture from the gospel of John we read that at his suffering, Jesus considered heaven and said, “I don’t pray for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all may be one.” (John 17:20)

Dorothy Day writes about the striving for heaven as the “building of beloved community”. A place within ourselves and around us where divisions cease and justice prevails.

When we read today that Jesus “looked to heaven”, can we imagine him deeply regarding and remembering hisbeloved community? Reflecting on the lives and faces of the people he loved in his life and his ministry, “notservants but friends” (John 15:15): Mary his mother, Joseph his father, Mary Magdalene his protector and proclaimer, Peter his confidant and his rock, his followers, the forgotten, forlorn, forbidden and forsaken. All of them, a part of his definition of heaven. And yet, Jesus doesn’t pray for them alone. As he cries out to God in pain,exclaiming his final words to those marginalized by the mainstream, suffering in solidarity with the oppressed, he prays for me too…for you, for the Romans and the Clerics, for our church leadership, the bishops and cardinals, for the privileged and powerful.

It’s easy to forget that Jesus in his mission and ministry came to redeem the whole world, but was predominantly present and preaching to those deemed by the dominant culture to be the “poor” and wretched. He was teaching among the troubled and ministering to the mistreated. His comforting words and healing message were primarily directed to those ostracized and battered by the bastions of the mighty. And yet, today he has a special message for this dominating culture. We must listen.. Listen to those who have been pushed to the perimeter, oppressed andyet living in fullness despite how they might be characterized as downtrodden.

Pope Francis similarly invites us to listen, “to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” Listen.

FutureChurch seems to have gotten the message. We are after all here for a “listening session” in this synodal process. And yet, what might it be like for us to continue in this practice of listening and sharing? To listen to a child, a friend, a family member, or someone writing and speaking about the pain that our Church has inflicted upon them. Our reflections from this six week process will be shared with our bishops, cardinals, and representatives from the Vatican. Let’s also ensurethey receive our message in the weeks, months, and years to come. Continue to ask your bishop or cardinal to listen to you.

Let’s remember Jesus teaches us that reform always happens from the bottom up not the top down (Matthew20:16), and we will even initially be reviled by those in power for our pursuit of justice and reform (John 15:18).But alas, the good news is Jesus promises those of us with a vigorous faith, that our grief will turn to rejoicing (John 16:16).

Many people here today know there is nothing quite as exhilarating as a group of “cradle catholics” showing up with signs, prayer, and song outside of your local cathedral or bishop’s mansion or even St. Peter’s Square insisting thatchurch leadership listen to our concerns about increased support for refugees, survivors of clerical abuse, women’s ordination, the lives of LGBTQ people, and an end to what Dr. Martin Luther King identified as the “triplets of evil” in America, racism, militarism, and unfettered capitalism. We can insist the United States Conference of Bishops listen to us on these issues.

Afterall, for a myriad of reasons, we are still here, still a part of the catholic tradition in one form or another. Either for ourselves or for others, we have an obligation to listen and to be heard in this movement for reform. To send the message that people are not leaving the Church in droves because of a “secularization of society”, but ratherbecause church leadership refuses to evolve with the faithful people.

We are not here to incriminate practices of faith from centuries past, for it is certainly the faith of our parents and grandparents and ancestors upon which we build today. The rituals, the devotions, the prayers are all the bedrock upon which we can strengthen the beloved community. And yet, Catholicism has changed and evolved throughout the centuries, and therefore in this growth we have become more Catholic, more universal, more whole, because people and communities on the ground have modeled what a more expansive, inclusive, and dare I say joyful faith can be. From the Cluniac Reforms to Vatican II, the Church does change. However difficult and hopeless it can feel at times, we are right in the middle of one such major shift in our tradition.

For many of us making our voices heard will mean demonstrating in front of these palaces of power. However, we know money talks too. So in this year’s Diocesan or Cardinal appeal consider writing a letter and sending it to yourparish priest, bishop or cardinal. Then, tell them instead of including money in your envelope you are making a donation to an organization working to support the rights of women, lgbtq people, indigenous groups, poc and black led movements, because you believe in the separation of Church and State and don’t want your donation included in the many millions of dollars they spend on the church’s lobbying arm to strike down public legislation protectingthe rights of women, and victim survivors, and LGBTQ people. Then if you feel like they’re still not listening to your concerns, bring a group back to their doorstep, and this time invite the media.

After several such actions in which members of our community and its supporters held vigils outside diocesan spaces advocating for sanctuary in catholic churches, in 2018 Benincasa was called upon to stand on the front steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral with victim survivors of clerical sex abuse in support of the Child Victims Act whichthe Archdiocese was vigorously opposing as it would significantly expand the “look-back window” and statute of limitations for individuals attempting to file suit against their perpetrators. During this outdoor liturgy, with yellow cabs weaving through traffic lanes and tourists meandering with arms full of shopping bags, we invited people to bring a favorite image or icon of Mary and together we prayed to Our Mother, with rosary beads in hand, for healingand intercession and the passage of this monumental law and an end to the Church’s opposition.

I’ll be honest, I don’t imagine Cardinal Dolan pays any attention to us when we show up at St. Pat’s on 5th Avenue, but people passing by certainly do and their reactions of love are all anyone really needs to keep vigiling for inclusion.

So to be Catholic, in public and in private, is to listen and to learn: to be in pursuit of making things whole, creating circles of community rather than pillars of power, what Jesus calls “a house with many rooms” (John 14:2). We’renot universal in the sense that to be Catholic is the only way to encounter the divine, rather to be Catholic means tomaintain a deeper presence to and acute awareness of the innumerable ways in which God is revealed through the vast diversity of Creation, diversity of faith, diversity of people and culture. To limit or diminish any sacred part of this creation is antithetical to a message grounded in love and listening. To this end, since our founding in 2015, it has been essential for us also to open our home to those in need with what Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day called “christrooms.” Temporary, supportive housing grounded foremost in community for folks who are facing housing insecurity, domestic violence, newly arrived immigrants, students, artists, and international activists. Along the way, we listen to each other and try to learn what makes every individual feel whole.

For each of us here today, this very catholic practice of “making things more whole” will take on many different forms, person to person and at various points in our lives. It is in this sacred variety divinity dwells. The question for all of us then becomes, how do we open our hearts to receive this unifying message and to share the message withthe powerful, even when it makes us uncomfortable? How might we know when faith and justice are coming to fruition in our Church? One way of knowing is certainly when American bishops and cardinals are feeling challenged by the social conscience of the laity, but we might also know when we sense the fullness of the Holy Spirit within ourselves, that gift Jesus offered us in his death and resurrection.

Unlike many of our Protestant brothers and sisters, as Catholics we are often conditioned from a young age to be passive recipients of faith not active participants. We are told we “receive” the sacraments, receive the body of Christ, receive reconciliation, receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit during confirmation, rather than being reminded that in every moment as an ecclesial body we’re renewing our baptismal rights as “priests, prophets, and kings.”

By virtue of Jesus’ life of inclusion, we are a part of a much more participative faith tradition than we are led to believe, and in this moment we are called to remind power that they too must listen. Like Jesus, let’s pray to our God that they, and that we, might listen and therefore know Jesus and know our creator more deeply.

Thank you, and much peace to you and your loved ones on this blessed day.

Possible questions for reflection

  • How might we know when faith and justice are coming to fruition in our Church?
  • In what ways have you encountered “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”?
  • How do you understand the question of heaven, beloved community, a house with many rooms? What issues are standing in the way of realizing this dream? What needs to happen in order to get closer to this ideal?
  • What does a faith that does justice mean to you? How important is it for faith and public life to intersect?
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