Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief
Header Image: Participants got to share their thoughts with church leaders in both a large group and individual discussion groups. La Salle University
From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, April 4, La Salle hosted one of the largest Catholic inter-campus gatherings in the city since Pope Francis began the synod campaign in October of 2021. Students and faculty were invited from Chestnut Hill College, Gwynedd Mercy University, Saint Joseph’s University, Villanova University, Rosemont College, Holy Family University, Neumann University and several other Catholic institutions from Pennsylvania.
Synod on Synodality is a two year process established by the Vatican under the guidance of Pope Francis that looks to establish listening sessions like this across the world with the goal of growing the Catholic church globally in terms of its operations and manner of professing its faith. From the Vatican’s official Synod website, the process is described as a way to evaluate the role of churchgoers in communion and vocation, the participation of the faithful in the Catholic experience and how to help the Church better carry out its mission and serve those “who live on the spiritual, social, economic, political, geographical and existential peripheries of our world.”
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has already hosted over 18 listening sessions in the past month, but this was the first that featured a primarily higher education crowd. As young adults and educational leaders are those who will establish the next generation of all major organizations, including the Catholic church, having a meeting specifically for college-aged voices is a way to tap into a specific minority of the Catholic community that will one day have a significant impact on its future. On February 22 of this year, Ash Wednesday for Catholics, was the center of what the university referred to as Synod week, La Salle’s first major step into the process. Additionally in March, over 14 major universities within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia met for smaller listening sessions within their universities. This event is somewhat a culmination of both, bringing together passionate and like minded thinkers from across the city’s schools to discuss the future of the institution that has not always been favored by a young crowd in general.
While the press was not invited to the listening session due to the personal and tender nature of some of the subjects discussed by participants in the event, we were able to catch up with some students after the event to see what they thought about the Synod and this session in particular. “I attended the first Synod session a few weeks ago after Mass with only three other people so attending this session with a much larger group of people was very different. I really enjoyed interacting with other Catholics and Christians from varying schools,” said digital arts junior Grace McKenna, “I thought it was really enlightening to hear what others had to say and comforting to know I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling.” A large group of students and faculty gathered from many of the schools invited, meaning this was the largest event of this type that most students have attended thus far.
“I am hopeful that this event will be helpful to the Synod mission and the Church overall,” said McKenna. Many students who attended were happy to share their opinions on what the church has been doing lately. “It’s a big deal that they are asking for the perspectives of not just the clergy but of the laypeople,” continued McKenna, “It was encouraging to see a lot of young believers gathering in one place discussing their hopes and fears for and of the Church.”
People from multiple faiths were invited to join in on the conversation, and psychology junior Bethany Macwana, a practicing Christian but not Roman Catholic, said “I feel like the Synod experience is something really unique in our time. The last global Synod that happened was in the 1970s, so this is a very monumental and historical event.” “In my home church,” said Macwana, “there is only a pastor as the head of authority, so seeing someone in the Catholic faith from the ‘higher ups’ in attendance was pretty neat.” On La Salle’s involvement in the Synodal mission, Macwana said “I did gain more insight into the Catholic church and heard from other peers who are the same age as me who shared key moments in their spiritual journey. If it was not for the Synod, I would have not been exposed to something like this, so I do feel that La Salle should continue to participate.”
Finally, we were able to get a few comments from Rayna Alexander, an ISBT junior at La Salle who attended the listening session. “The event allowed for many perspectives to be heard and it felt great to be able to share with others who have had similar experiences,” said Alexander, “I feel the Synod gives me a place to voice my thoughts and frustrations openly while having others simply listen and understand my place. I definitely think the La Salle community should participate because all of our voices matter in making changes and solidifying the true value of the Catholic faith.” Alexander also expressed that she believes the event will make a real difference, commenting “With our voices, we are raising awareness and emphasizing concerns as we form into the leaders of our faith.”