Journeying Together at Mitty’s Listening Sessions

An overview of the Catholic Church’s Universal Synod and its manifestations on Mitty’s campus.


Photo courtesy of Ms. Jamie Visser

Anik Chobe and Brooke Hulbert

All people should be included, represented, and treated with equal respect in the Catholic Church—a recurrent theme in Mitty’s recent listening sessions. From two Greek words that translate to “together on the way,” the goal of the Synod of Bishops is for people of faith to journey together towards a better church. The modern iteration of the Synod of Bishops was established in 1965 according to the Diocese of San Jose as the result of Pope Paul VI’s effort to promote the church’s collegiality, yet this biannual event has taken a sharp turn in recent years. In October of 2021, Pope Francis called for a “Synod on Synodality”—a Universal Synod that encourages and welcomes participation from all levels of the Catholic Church; rather than just the clergy, all Catholics can express their views on how the church operates, including Mitty students.

As part of the synodal process, the Campus Ministry department organized a series of listening sessions on campus where students could share their experiences and ideas involving the church. Ms. Jamie Visser, the coordinator of the listening sessions, emphasizes the importance of this: “There hasn’t been a synod ever, to my knowledge, that has asked for the lay people’s opinion … That being said, I think it’s extremely powerful that we’re being asked.”

Information gathered during Mitty listening sessions and other places in the Diocese of San Jose make a direct impact on the Church; these ideas are sent to the Diocese which then goes to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and ultimately, the Vatican. 

We need to show the clergy that we care. Whether or not our concerns will be taken with the legitimacy they should, it’s important to speak up when we are asked to.

— Angela Lomeli, Class of 2023

Many students directly participated in the Universal Synod by attending these listening sessions, voicing their ideas and concerns regarding the Catholic Church’s position on a wide range of topics: LGBTQ+ individuals, women’s positions in the church, personal experiences of Catholicism, and people of color in the church.

Amy Gruber, a student participant and active LIFE Corps member in these listening sessions, states, “Allowing everyone to speak their truth in a communal way … our truths come together to form a path for a better church—a better world.” Ms. Visser believes that the discussions give students the opportunity to share their positive and negative experiences with the church. She adds, “The most powerful part is the connections and relationships that are being built in the conversations themselves. ”  

A digital flyer sent by Ms. Jamie Visser to advertise Mitty’s listening sessions

An important aspect of these discussions was how to make the Catholic Church more inclusive. On March 25, 2022, Shepherd—a club representing and supporting queer people in the Mitty community—organized a listening session where students shared their experiences. A recent event that directly impacted the LGBTQ+ community at Mitty was the replacement of the winter musical, Head Over Heels, with the show, Songs for a New World, resulting in, the loss of queer representation on the Kinkade stage. In response to this, listening session attendee and junior Angela Lomeli said, “We need to show the clergy that we care. Whether or not our concerns will be taken with the legitimacy they should, it’s important to speak up when we are asked to.”

The listening sessions that took place on Mitty’s campus only represented a small portion of the vast undertaking that is the Universal Synod, with parallel listening sessions occurring in countless Catholic communities across the world. Until the climax of the Universal Synod in 2023, however, the outcome of this unprecedented shift in the status quo of the Catholic Church—whether such a gargantuan effort to “journey together” will result in a more inclusive church—is yet to be determined.