The ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality offers room for discernment and “an opportunity to share the fruits of the discernment”, a Catholic Nun has said.

Speaking at the Thursday, April 28 virtual session, which the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA) organized, Sr. Mishael Manianga said, “Consecrated Women today embrace a team leadership style that promotes walking/working together inspired by deep listening to the Spirit of God as Congregations engage in mission.”

“Team leadership appropriates a Corporate Reflection Process as a tool for decision making. This tool promotes a ‘listening together’ or collective listening that allows greater participation of the members,” Sr. Manianga said.

The member of the Religious Sisters of the Holy Spirit (RSHS) told participants at the April 28 virtual event that the Synod on Synodality “allows each member to discern and has an opportunity to share the fruits of the discernment.”

The sharing of the fruits of discernment “unveils to the group/community what the Spirit is saying to the whole group in a particular situation. It disposes the group/community to listen to the Holy Spirit,” the RSHS Assistant Superior General further said.

The process of communal or collective listening “allows one to move from the ‘I’ to the ‘We’ space where decisions are made bearing in mind what others call the ‘bigger picture’ – the common good,” Sr. Manianga added during the April 28 session held under the theme, “Empowered Consecrated Women in a Synodal Church.”

“This kind of decision-making tool inspires a Value based kind leadership that opts to listen to her members without leaving others out,” the Zambian Catholic Nun said, and continued, “I guess this is what Synodality promotes; embracing all without leaving out any. Having all voices heard including those on the peripheries/margins.”

“While authority must be above all fraternal and spiritual, and while those entrusted with it must know how to involve their brothers and sisters in the decision-making process, it should still be remembered that the final word belongs to authority and consequently, that authority has the right to see that decisions taken are respected,” she said in reference to paragraph 43 of John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata.

Reflecting on synodality in the apostolate of pastoral workers, Sr. Manianga said, “Diocesan Pastoral Council, Parish Pastoral Councils and Centre Pastoral Councils were seen as fora for dialogue and decision building.”

“As much as they would be perceived as consultative bodies, they greatly influence decisions that would later be pronounced in the Parish/Diocese. In both instances, the representation of the Laity, Religious and Clergy has been key. These expressions of collaboration for me are seeds of Synodality,” the RSHS member who is the Diocesan Pastoral Coordinator for Zambia’s Diocese of Monze said.

She acknowledged the “visibility and presence of Consecrated women in various pastoral assignments beyond the parish ministry who by virtue of their leadership roles in these numerous institutions greatly participate in decision making processes – either as head or staff in these institutions or serve there.”

“Powered by the various charisms, the women Religious are influential and key to decision-making processes in these institutions,” she added.

In October 2021, Pope Francis formally launched the two-year global consultation process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality with a call to “look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say.”

Earlier, in May last year, the Vatican had announced that the Synod on Synodality would open with a Diocesan phase lasting from October 2021 to April 2022. A continental phase, the second, is to take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, which is the universal phase, would begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” at the Vatican in October 2023.

Recounting her experience about the synodal process, Sr. Manianga recalled the excitement she got seeing “the preparatory documents around this particular Synod.”

“Just the topic itself synodality filled me with great excitement with a deep joy and a great hope. And immediately being placed in my pastoral and mission office I got to work immediately, engaged with the pastoral agents of the Diocese, and more so with the Laity, so that I would popularize this Synod,” the RSHS member said.

She added, “What gave me the greatest excitement was the theme itself synodality, which entailed working together, embracing everyone that there was nobody that would be left behind or on the margins.”

“The uniqueness of this particular synod by way of (stages of Synodal process, i.e. from Diocese through national - regional to the universal engagement) was quite an interesting and attractive idea,” the Zambian Catholic Nun said.

She continued, “The realization that the fruits of this synod are realized already in engaging in the process itself. This gave me the impetus/motivation to get involved in the process of this particular synod.”

“I believe with the theme itself there's already a great openness of spirit that even the one in the grassroots, somebody that would be very far from wherever it would be happening that their participation and voice will be heard,” Sr. Manianga said during the April 28 webinar.

Source ACI Africa