Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Johnathon Kelso
Participants share personal reflections during a 2024 Synod Regional Listening Session held at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur.


Atlanta believers add their voice to Synod  

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 2, 2024

ATLANTA—Behind the high, guarded walls of the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, 18 prisoners gathered to share their vision of the church.

Their goal was to discuss how the church can live as a “community of love and compassion in Christ.”

For two hours, the men sat around tables discussing the church in English and Spanish, assisted by members of the prison ministry.

They were among the nearly 300 Atlanta Archdiocese faithful invited to additional local listening sessions as part of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality. The goal was to further consult Catholics before the synod’s final meeting in October.

The inmates at the March 11 meeting applauded the recent changes that addressed their desire for additional religious services.

“We have been listened to, and now we are part of the church—that is good! We are included and loved as human beings,” they said in the synod summary report.

The five-page report from the archdiocese found among the participants “a great love for the Church and a great desire to be part of making the Church stronger and more vibrant…”

Seven listening sessions were held in the Archdiocese of Atlanta as part of the synod process, drawing anywhere from 18 to 73 participants to gather around tables and engage in dialogue. Approximately 271 faithful attended the sessions.

Some sessions were designed with specific groups in mind, including young adults, Spanish-speaking people, members of the LGBT community and those in prison.

The bishops framed the event around the theme “How can we be a synodal church in mission?” Conversations were guided by two questions:

—Where have I seen or experienced successes—and struggles—in the structures/organization/leadership/life of the church that help or hinder mission?

—How can the structures and organization of the church help all the baptized respond to the call to proclaim the gospel and live as a community of love and compassion in Christ?

Reports from the listening sessions were due to the Washington, D.C., office of the USCCB April 8.

Jenny Miles, manager of planning and research for the archdiocese and one of the organizers for the synod, said the themes that emerged from recent meetings matched the earlier Synod on Synodality 2022 sessions.

The broad themes were division in the church, a desire for community and belonging and a need for improved formation/evangelization, Miles said.  These issues “continue to weigh on the hearts and minds of our members,” she said.

“Their simple act of participating is contributing directly to a Church that is becoming a synodal church in mission. We trust that this Synod is and will continue producing fruit, and to recognize that the Holy Spirit is leading us incrementally,” she wrote in an email.