Today, October 17, was our third full day in Rome—though I can’t tell if our time here has felt longer or shorter. I feel as though our flight could have landed six months ago or this morning.
Before this class, my direct experience with the Synod was null. Even as we boarded the Ram Van for the airport, I still found myself wondering what we would be walking into. Though I still have much to learn, I think some of our work today was similar to both my initial understanding of the Synod and my time at Fordham as a whole.
Our first meeting this morning was with Dr. Emilce Cuda, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. She is an Argentine-born theologian and political scientist who is one of the highest-ranking women ever to work at the Vatican—a novelty that Pope Francis is making routine.
The first thing that struck me from our conversation was her appreciation of our groups’ various areas of study: not only Theology but English, Political Science, Economics, Emerging Media, and Sociology, among others. As a Sociology major myself, I was intrigued. I found myself wondering: is there room in the synodal process for the laity with less experience with academic theology? Could my education in a different field still work in conjunction with my faith to answer some of the questions brought forth by the current Synod?
Dr. Cuda quelled my doubts. She explained (in a way that could only have been sociologically inspired) that the Church needs to examine our society at large so it may reunite itself with those who have strayed or fallen from the faith. The unique fields and topics brought to the table by lay political scientists, economists, and sociologists are just as viable as theology and religious studies, she explained.
In fact, Dr. Cuda shared with us her belief that experts in such fields are necessary to work alongside the theologians of prior synods, for we are in dire need of a critical examination of the social and political situation of the world. Our shared home today is one rife with contentious issues: migration, climate change, and political polarization are just three of those that are roiling our societies. Ignoring these problems means falling victim to a vicious cycle in which many suffer while few profit—this is not sustainable, yet it is happening right now. We, the laity, are needed. The Synod on Synodality has reached unprecedented levels of involvement from the laity because lay perspectives, education, and opinions are needed to unite the Church with the marginalized, the unheard, the left behind.
With our own backgrounds validated—as theologians, yes, but also those of us in other disciplines—we become further united as we journey together, simultaneously strengthening our faith lives and our connections with our brothers and sisters across the planet.