What I Learned by Listening

Sometime in November we were given a letter from our Bishop about the upcoming Synod, alerting us that our parish was going to be asking us to participate in the spring. Then in the middle of February there was a bulletin announcement about it, which I walked up to my pastor after Mass pointing to saying, “What are we doing about this? I’d like to help – this is kinda what I do for work.” He assured me there was a plan and a man named Tom was going to talk about it in a couple of weeks asking for volunteers. He said to volunteer when the time came, he’d love to have me participate.

I’ve used the excuse of “being new” to my parish for not getting involved for the past 18 months. I’ve said, “I don’t know anyone.” Or “There’s not much going on because of Covid.” Then I volunteered to help with the synod and in the span of less than a week I’ve gotten in deep, but most of that is a story for another day. The story for today is what I learned by listening while I was a scribe for our listening session.

About 50 people gathered on a Saturday morning to share about their experience of mission, community, and participation. People I’ve never met poured their hearts out in our small group about their joys and sufferings and triumphs and failures. Many tears were shed.

I always think I have a lot to learn by listening, I mean, I listen for a living it seems. Listening to parishes talk about their strengths and challenges. Listen to parishioners share about what’s working and not working through parish surveys. Listen to planning teams share their dreams and form them into a workable plan. Listen to workshop attendees share their new insights into themselves.

However, I think I learned something different by listening as a scribe at our synod sessions. I didn’t need to also facilitate. I didn’t need to even share my own experience. I just needed to listen to the hearts of my brothers and sisters in Christ, to hear their pain. The facilitator I was paired with did something I would never have done as she invited people to share. She would follow up the person’s 2-3 minutes with “I heard you say … and Jane I’m seeing you were stirred by what George shared, can you tell us a little more about it?” It was beautiful to see how we’re each connected, how each story works with the other, how none of us are doing this alone, no matter how lonely we feel.

I’m sharing this because we need more of that. We need more of that connection to one another, more of the intertwining of our stories – the joyful ones and the sorrowful ones. We are not alone, no matter how lonely we feel, how separated from the Church we seem to be, how far from Christ’s love we assume ourselves to be.

I’m not sure everyone sees the goal of the synod as connection to one another, but I do. As someone in our group said after the other groups shared on the first question, “There was more similar between us all than different.” There is more that unites us than divides us – if only we are willing to listen to one another, to allow ourselves to be connected to one another, to walk with one another on this journey toward sainthood.

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