Listening sessions on campus reflect emphasis on involvement of the faithful

Officially commenced last October at the Vatican, the “Synod on Synodality” is the Church’s effort to “provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward on the path towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term,” according to the Vatican’s official synod website. The Synod emphasizes the “journeying together” of all members of the Body of Christ, and thus expresses interest in the cares and concerns of the whole Church, “grounded in the sensus fidei [sense of the faith] we share.”

This spring, Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry began its part in the Synod by beginning an initial “listening phase.” Campus Ministry hosted over a hundred sessions for students, facilitated by Campus Ministry staff and volunteers, to survey the campus. Students were asked about their prayer and spiritual lives, as well as about how they find community at the university. They were then asked what they perceive their needs to be from both the university and from the Catholic Church.

Mary Biese, a senior in the Program of Liberal Studies and future graduate student in the Master of Theological Studies program, reflected on her experience: “All of the students were very cordial, agreeing on several, but not all, points and building off of what each other said. I think it was conducive to the goal of the wider Synod. My only complaint—and one that I don’t think could easily be helped—was that it was far too short a session for the scope of the questions that were asked.”

In an interview with the Rover, Director of Campus Ministry Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C. discussed how the university will continue the synodal process. “What we will begin to do is gather the facilitators. I’ve asked them to begin to identify what the central themes are—we have many sessions and a variety of different people that have participated … [Then we will work] to crystallize that into a report,” he said.

Fr. McCormick also indicated that the report would be followed by an “action phase.” The nature of this phase will ultimately be determined by the content of the listening sessions. He said, “Everyone wants to skip to the, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’ But there’s a reason a process like this takes some time. And the beauty of the way the Church thinks is oftentimes slow and methodical.”

He also noted, echoing Pope Francis’ words about the Synod, that it is not a strictly “democratic process” but rather a form of listening, both at the university and Church levels. Speaking about both levels at which the Synod is operating at Notre Dame, Chuck Lamphier, Executive Director for the university’s Office of Mission Engagement and Church Affairs, expressed enthusiasm and optimism regarding the university’s role in the wider Synod and in the relationship the Church has with students on campus.

Notre Dame’s participation reflects the mission of the Synod to bring the whole people of God together, especially young adults such as the university’s students who, as Lamphier stated, “are learning that the Church wants to hear their hopes, their opinions, their struggles.”

Lamphier also noted that this is indeed an extension of the Church and is being conducted with the local diocese: “The university is happy to participate in the global synodal process, and that starts by participating in the Synod where we live. Notre Dame is aligned with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend’s desire to invite all members of our community—especially those whose voices are not often heard in the Church—to participate.”

William Hunter is a sophomore in the theology and philosophy joint program. While he is no longer taking applications for stunt doubles, he can be contacted at

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