Seventy sophomore theology students gathered in the theater on Thursday, February 24, to witness a dialogue between Pope Francis and college students from across the Americas—including fifty eight universities from twenty one countries. Nearby, sixty Ignatian Service Learning students from Mrs. Jenny Snyder’s AP Environmental Science class participated from the Marillac Room. The conversation was part of the greater Synod on Synodality (2021–2023) being held across the globe, and Loyola University Chicago served as the North American host for a conversation between North and South American university students and Pope Francis.
A synod is an ecclesial council established to reflect on and guide the Church’s engagement and participation in the world. In its history, the Church has had twenty-one ecumenical councils and, since the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), sixteen general assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, including: Justice in the World (1971), the Voice of the Family (2015) and the Faith & Vocational Discernment of Young People (2018).
Each synod exists within a particular historical context. The Synod on Synodality is a formal attempt within the Church to cultivate a level of listening and attentiveness that has been strained by the COVID-19 pandemic, a global refugee crisis, social disparities, and concurrent transitions in the life of the Church. Amid growing polarization and isolation, this Synod hopes to provide a renewed framework where all baptized and people of good will become a Church of encounter in search of greater authenticity in how we communicate and live together.
In the context of Catholic secondary and higher education, this Synod is a truly collaborative and interdisciplinary process that seeks and values the wisdom of all stakeholders, especially those whose voices have historically been on the periphery of the Church—
including those who rarely practice, have left or felt alienated by the faith. In this way, Pope Francis seeks the sensus fidelium
(the living voice of the Spirit among the People of God) as he emphasizes encounter, listening, and discerning the call of God in the 21st century.
“For many of our students, this Synod provides an opportunity to participate in creating a Church that takes their concerns seriously; one that resists the tendencies in our world to debate rather than dialogue, to dismiss rather than discern,” says Theology Department Chair Mr. Joshua Hooker
. “Our hope is that Loyola Academy and Loyola University Chicago students see in this process a framework for relationship building that embodies the most fundamental challenges of our Jesuit charism to be ‘women and men for others.’”
“It’s the beginning of an important process for students to see a relevant and active Church,” said Loyola Academy Principal Charlie Heintz.
After participating in the Synod encounter, theology students had the opportunity to share their insights and reflections. Some examples are shared below:
“The Pope said something along the lines of 'The elderly are the roots, but the young ones are those who make the tree grow.' This quote really shifted my perspective on who will lead the change in this world: the younger generation.”—Sinit Gebrehiwet ’24
"Something that affirmed me was the mention of the importance of climate change being acknowledged in the Church. This affirmed me because climate change was mentioned to be the biggest contributor to a lot of forced migration, and it was mentioned to have caused a lot of damage amongst many families. Because of this, I want climate change to be mentioned in the Church more."—Anthony Toledo ’24
"The idea of hope as an anchor really stayed with me."—Morgan Mackie ’24
“The Synod has strengthened opportunities to deepen our shared Jesuit mission with Loyola University Chicago. In the weeks ahead, we look to extend Synod listening sessions between Loyola University Chicago students and faculty with students, staff and faculty at Loyola Academy,” adds Mr. Hooker.
For more information, visit https://www.synod.va/en.html
. Loyola University Chicago’s Synodal encounter with Pope Francis can be viewed here