Towards a prayerful, humble and listening Church

Father Orobator recently became Dean of the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University in California. For the past six years, he has been President of JCAM, the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar. He was chosen by Pope Francis as a member of the Synod because, with JCAM, he played an active role in facilitating the preparatory phases of the Synod on the African continent.He offers us his testimony.

By Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, SJ
Dean, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University

I am a voting member of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality. These days have been moments of deep and prayerful conversations in the Spirit as we collectively seek light to see the will of God and courage to accomplish it. Talking about a synod as a moment of prayer may seem surprising. For people who are familiar with the workings of a synod, the usual approach involves a marathon of speeches and protracted rounds of voting on predetermined texts prepared in advance or proposed during the meeting only by bishops. Not so this time: participants carry out their work in small groups of mixed compositions, that is, laymen and laywomen, religious, priests, and bishops. They listen to one another in multiple rounds of spiritual conversation.


Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, SJ.

The layout of the members in roundtables creates an ambiance of prayer circles. This makes the atmosphere of the synod prayerful and conducive to interior attentiveness to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit. Speeches and reports are interspersed with moments of silence and interior recollection. The morning liturgies led by the Camaldolese monks are diligently prepared, as are the reflections by the spiritual consultants.

As conceived by Pope Francis, the theme of this synod, “synodality,” implies a common space of listening, dialogue, and discernment about matters of greater moment in the Church. There is something deeply Ignatian about this experience, because discernment and spiritual conversation presuppose that those who are involved take time to pray so that their inputs and interventions come from a place of contemplative recollection. I have found this experience nourishing for my personal prayer. Looking back on my experience so far, this synod on synodality has become a way of practicing the graces of listening, dialogue, and discernment in a prayerful manner. It is a new way of being Church.


Time and again Francis has reminded the synod members that the most important protagonist in this exercise of discernment is the Holy Spirit, just as the most important disposition is a prayerful and respectful openness to what the Spirit is saying to the Church as a global community of discernment.

Even if nothing else changes after the synod, the integration of prayer and discernment in common into decision-making processes will be an important part of the goal to become a more synodal Church. I am hopeful that the outcome of the synod will be a Church that is more discerning in its ways of proceeding – in other words, a prayerful, humble, and listening Church.

Synod 2021 - 2024

For a synodal Church:
communion, participation and mission.


Synodal-U Community

The Society of Jesus joins people from different corners of the world who want to walk together in their synodal formation.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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