Hundreds are Answering the Call to Participate in the Vatican’s Synod

By John Morris

Hundreds are Answering the Call to Participate in the Vatican’s Synod

Nearly 100 people gathered December 9th at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Land O’ Lakes to reflect on how the Holy Spirit is leading the Church. This is part of the Holy Father’s vision of synodality for the Church in the 21st century.

The worldwide Catholic Church has embarked on a three-year, Synod on Synodality.  For the faithful of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Bishop Gregory Parkes has called us to gather locally to discuss and pray about the theme, For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.  Bishop Parkes said in a recent letter, “We are called to be a Church that listens intently to one another and to the Holy Spirit.”

The evening began with opening prayer and catechesis.  Deacon Bill Ditewig guided the participants on what a synod is, how synods have shaped the Church historically, and how this one might impact our future.

Danya Levin wants to be part of history.

“The whole synod is a historic event with us as a community being involved. I want to learn more about what’s expected of us,” said Danya.

Her husband, Aaron Levin adds, “I feel there is a larger social and political divide between us and our bishops or higher ups in the Church, and they need to know what we think.”

Parishioners and clergy from northern Hillsborough and southern Pasco parishes were present.  After prayer and large group discussion, the congregation divided into small table groups for a series of questions focusing on faith, listening, missed opportunities and how the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church.  After some healthy discussion, each table had the opportunity to share with the assembly key points and common themes.

One of the points was the opportunity to minister to young adults that have drifted away.  April Kirk, Director of Development for the USF Catholic Student Center said, “It seemed like everyone was in the same boat. We want to be listened to and there are things that we as a Church need to address.”

Young adults in attendance had a chance to share about their struggles.

“There are a lot of young adults out there without any place to go, and unfortunately social media tells them where to go,” said Vincent Levin, who is a college student.

Aaron Levin, Vincent’s father added, “I wish the USCCB would speak more about what’s going on in the Church and address controversies and the questions that the people have because of the things they hear. Maybe they just need more marketing to the people.”

Some of the participants feel the Spirit is leading the Church to reach out more and invite people into relationship with Christ.

“If we think 20 percent capacity at Mass is hitting a homerun, we’re missing the ball with the 80 percent.  We felt like the Holy Spirit is calling us to reach out to our prodigals,” said Mary Heston of St Timothy Parish in Lutz. “Those prodigals are sitting next to us in the pews, they’re sitting across from us at our table at home, and they’re in the grocery store.”

St. Scholastica Parish in Lecanto had a similar session with about 60 people in attendance. Christ the King Parish in South Tampa had a gathering in early December with about 50 participants.  Katie Holland, Director of Religious Education for the parish, believes this will be a catalyst to bigger things.

 “I am hoping we have some great conversations.  I’m hoping that people who maybe aren’t quite as involved in the Church, maybe some of the people on the fringes will be enticed to come and share their concerns and their glory stories, like what are we doing well,” said Holland.

Father Justin Paskert, Parochial Administrator of Our Lady of the Rosary, closed the evening with a reflection.

“It was beautiful to see how the Holy Spirit is moving us and the discernment of everyone gathered together. How open everybody was to listen. It was a beautiful evening of prayer and just how much love there is for the Church and a desire to be obedient to the Holy Spirit and to be there for those in need, those who need the Gospel, to walk with people who don’t have anybody, to reach those places that need the Gospel.”

For information on the Journey Together Synod meetings across the diocese of St. Petersburg, visit