Synod Occasion to Prayerfully Practice “graces of listening, dialogue”: African Delegate

Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, the Dean of the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University. Credit: Jesuits Global

The ongoing Synod on Synodality conversations in Rome are an opportunity to practice multiple graces, including those of prayerfully “listening, dialogue, and discernment”, an African delegate participating in the October 4-29 meeting has said. 

In a reflection shared with ACI Africa, Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator says, “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.”

“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,” Fr. Orobator further says.

The Nigerian-born member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), who is the Dean of the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University, describes his experience in the ongoing Synodal process as “a new way of being Church.”

“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,” he continues in his reflection dated October 19.


Fr. Orobator says, “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.”

“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,” the immediate former President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) adds.

The Jesuit Priest makes reference to the spirituality of his Society, saying, “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.”

“Time and again (Pope) 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,” Fr. Orobator recalls the emphasis of the Holy Father, also a Jesuit, to the close to 400 delegates.  

He goes on to reflect about the uniqueness of the ongoing Synod on Synodality.

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“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,” Fr. Orobator says.

He continues, “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.”

The Jesuit Catholic Priest notes that “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,” Fr. Orobator says in his reflection shared with ACI Africa. 

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.