Listening with Each Other: What We Heard, What We Didn’t Hear, What We Might Conclude

Synod Preparation in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis

(En espanol: Escuchar a Jesús, escucharnos mutuamente)

Synod 2021-2024 logoTwo listening sessions were held in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in March of 2024.  These synod-related sessions were supplemented by additional opportunities for various individuals to share thoughts (e.g. a conversation between Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and a group of students at the local Catholic university).  By hosting the two formal listening sessions in two strategic locations within the archdiocese, Church leaders provided a good opportunity for the faithful to participate in this phase of the synodal process.

Listening session participants were asked to focus on two questions:

When have I seen the Church doing what the Church is supposed to do?  When have I seen the Church not doing what the Church is supposed to do?


What can Church leaders do to help people be better Christians?  What should leaders not do so they don’t prevent people from being good Christians?

This report summarizes three main areas that surfaced during our listening sessions:

  • The topic of how to be more welcoming and inclusive;
  • The importance of acknowledging and embracing the teaching of our Church; and
  • The value of lifelong learning in the Faith—especially as it helps equip us for mission.

Perceived exclusion causes pain.

Participants expressed that people in various groups are or feel they are excluded from the life of our Church.  Examples include:

  • People who describe themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc.;
  • Women; and
  • Youth.

“The Church is closed to dialogue,” expressed one participant.  “It judges rather than welcomes.”  Cliques within parishes and schools (e.g., those based on socioeconomic status) were also noted as contributing to feelings of being excluded on the part of some.

Regarding women, several participants mentioned the need for a greater role in leadership and decision-making.  A few attendees suggested female deacons as a “baby step” forward; it was left unspecified whether this would mean ordination or a role of some other sort, and if the word “forward” refers to an eventual role of priest or bishop.

“If you want change, help make it happen; but know that maybe your attitude needs to change.”

While changes to Church teaching were implied by some, the importance of embracing the Deposit of Faith was articulated by several listening session participants.  Quotes include:

  • “Ask God to open your heart to His will.”
  • “Being close to Christ will help [change your attitude].”
  • “Christ must be the center which will keep us humble.”
  • (referencing GK Chesterton)  “Christianity hasn’t been tried and found wanting; it’s been found difficult and left untried.”

One participant suggested a specific virtue as especially helpful in our times.  “[W]hile it is important to meet all people where they are and listen to them without judgment, we should also be courageous enough to make them aware of the beautiful, rewarding and life-enhancing virtue of chastity.”

Several additional thoughts about embracing the teaching of our Church were shared:

  • “We must express love through truth and caring.”
  • “Relativism is not the Catholic Church. Jesus came to give life.”
  • “Jesus didn’t just hang out with sinners; He helped them change!”
  • “God meets us where we are—and calls us to grow.”

Participants acknowledged that we must listen to each other, and that when we do, sometimes we hear Jesus.  But Jesus doesn’t always align with our own egos, agendas and ideologies; hence the importance of being lifelong learners in the Faith.


“Love our neighbors, help lift them up and encourage them, change lives and save souls!”

Dedication to equipping ourselves for mission arose as an area of emphasis—sometimes with a sense of urgency.  “All of these listening sessions mean next to nothing if they are not for the primary and definitively outlined purpose of saving souls,” expressed a participant.  Additional quotes:

  • “Be an educated laity. Don’t just show up. Be an ambassador.”
  • “Include the ‘why’ of Church teaching.”
  • “People need hope. Our Church has it and offers it to all.”

Referencing outreach to young people: “Let’s inform youth of their responsibility to pray, serve and spread the Faith—maybe by being a priest or helping others discern that call.”  This specific listening session drew to a close with a Eucharistic focus:  “When we strive to appreciate the Eucharist more, we’ll never go anywhere else [for worship].”


At one of our listening sessions, a participant said, “Thank you for the opportunity for us, the faithful, to have a voice.”  This calls to mind a few questions that hang in the air, but aren’t always voiced when themes like those above are on the table:

  • What is the sense of the faithful—the sensus fidelium?  (What circumstances must be present to say this reality is active?)
  • Does doctrine change, and if so, how?  What is the development of doctrine and, similarly, what circumstances need to be in place for an authentic doctrinal development?
  • How can the laity (women and men, young and old, heterosexual, same-sex attracted, etc.) exercise leadership in the Church without crossing a line into governance—the proper role and charism of our successors to the Apostles?

A debt of gratitude is owed to the Synod of Bishops for exploring topics related to listening, dialogue, accompaniment and co-responsibility.  By God’s grace, this October’s synodal session in Rome will continue refining with clarity these important dynamics for the Church in extending the mission and ministry of her one foundation:  Jesus Christ.

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