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Father Tom Lucas, S.J., pastor of St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in SacramentoSt. Ignatius Loyola Parish, Sacramento/YouTube

SACRAMENTO, California (LifeSiteNews) — My family recently attended Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Sacramento, California. While it fulfilled our Sunday obligation, St. Ignatius is a Jesuit parish, and we are living under the Francis pontificate.

Father Tom Lucas’ “Pastoral Perambulations” column of the church bulletin for the Fourth Sunday of Easter should not have been surprising.

It described the parish’s three “in-person dialogue and listening sessions” held in March to address the question posed by the Synod on Synodality in Rome last fall: “Where have I seen or experienced successes – and distresses – within the Church’s structures, its organization, its leadership and life that encourage or hinder the mission?”

The full report of last month’s discussions involving 170 parishioners is available on the St. Ignatius website. Among the conclusions of the “social justice”-minded community:

  • “The Church needs to be inclusive to all, especially women, minority groups, and peripheral populations, including members of the LGBTQ+ community and divorced Catholics.
  • Patriarchy and clericalism are no longer effective structures for the Church; the People of God are the Church, and the laity should be involved in all roles in the Church. The role of women in the Church needs to be expanded into leadership positions, including ordination.”

The left-leaning parish, like many others around the world, is enthusiastically picking up the synodal baton in the run-up to the second month-long gathering of bishops in Rome next October.

Last month’s listening sessions employed the familiar synodal format, in which the apparent consensus of smaller groups seated at round tables is presented for wider discussion. The controlled process has been criticized for steering deliberations toward desired conclusions.

Pope Francis’s essential agenda – incremental movement toward acceptance by the Catholic Church of homosexuality and same-sex “marriage” and “female deacons” and the abolition of the Latin Mass – meanwhile, continues to advance.

The Diocese of Sacramento declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month in response to some 250 claims of clerical sexual abuse, with the great majority of allegations stemming from the 1980s or earlier. Individual parishes were not affected by the filing.

My family’s home parish is only a 10-minute drive from St. Ignatius, but on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. Our parish school boasts five teachers belonging to the orthodox Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. The Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel is said after every Mass.

The Synod on Synodality was a regular Mass prayer intention while the world’s bishops were meeting last October. But I haven’t heard a peep at our parish about the synodal enterprise since then.

It’s relatively easy to find a Latin Mass in this city, whose Spanish name refers to the Most Holy Sacrament, the Santisimo Sacramento. The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter offers three Masses on weekdays, three Masses on Saturday, and six Masses on Sunday. The Priestly Society of Saint Pius X chapel is one of the society’s oldest in California.

Yet the April 21 church bulletin from St. Ignatius Loyola confirms there is a wide divergence among the local Catholic flock. A similar dynamic is unfolding today in dioceses worldwide, as the synodal project inconspicuously gathers steam during the lull between higher-profile Vatican events.

The Jesuit pastor highlighted two major themes from last month’s conversations:

  • Surprise and shock that this process is not widespread and occurring in all parishes.
  • An overwhelming sentiment that these synodal sessions must continue.

Faithful Catholics should check their diocesan website to monitor synodal developments in their area or even make a fact-finding visit to a “progressive” parish where listening sessions are most likely to be occurring. The content now being generated locally is what bishops will work to implement globally this fall.

The St. Ignatius bulletin article concluded by comparing the parishioner input to “a pebble dropped into a pond that will produce ripples, new patterns, and flashes of light we had not expected to see. May the Spirit who has begun this work in our Church bring it to fulfillment.”

The work of the Synod on Synodality is more like a lethal iceberg, the vast bulk of which floats unseen beneath the ocean surface. We must brace ourselves for impact.

Robert Jenkins is a pseudonym for a Catholic writer living in Sacramento, California.