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By Elena Macias

Diocesan Chancellor, Sister Leticia Salazar, ODN, is in Rome this month to serve as a voting delegate in the Synod of Bishops, marking the first time lay Catholics have fulfilled that role. Before she departed, Sr. Leticia sat down with the BYTE to share her reflections and hopes for the Synod.

Q: How have you been able to prepare for your role as a voting delegate at the Synod this month?
A: The first thing I have done is prepare myself in prayer. Asking for the grace to be open to the Spirit and to be free from any perception, any idea that I might have on what the outcomes, what the process will be, but just to be open. I have also been praying for all the delegates that we also be open to the Word of the Spirit because I really believe that any breath of the Spirit is always a renewal. This is a universal gathering so there is going to be people from all over the world, so I would like to be open to the experience of people around the world, so that gives me joy and peace and really doesn’t make me nervous, it just gives me a sense of joy and gratefulness.

Q: With this being the first time that the assembly will include laypeople, how do you think these “other voices” will impact the general assembly?
A: When the Synod [of Bishops] was just bishops, they only had one experience. Even though they are close to the people of the local churches, the more that we open the richness, it increases in everything that we do. The more that we open, the more gifts are on the table and also the more life experiences. The people that are going to be there have listened to thousands of people and just to think that all those voices will be present, I think that will be an increase of richness to the experience of the Synod. When you see all the delegations, you see all the diversity, so they bring family experience, the local church experience and they have been participating at the different levels, at the parish level, diocesan level, national level, continental level listening sessions, and I think that is an incredible richness and a different view of the Church.

Q: What will be your role at the general assembly?
A: The role we have as a delegation is to participate in everything that happens. So, we will be participating at the liturgical assemblies and Masses. I think my role will be to be attentive, to be awake and not to lose any opportunity in the days. To observe, to share, to reflect, and to feel and to be very aware that it is the same spirit of God that has always empowered the Church from its beginning.

Q: What experiences and stories of the Diocese of San Bernardino do you expect to share during the Synodal dialogues in October?
A: This diocese has a history of being prophetic and I think prophetic during different historical times. I think the experience that I have is that from listening, people have expressed really what is the identity of the Catholic Church, the centrality of the Eucharist. While the Pew Study has said that in the United States people were not believing any more in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the real presence, here in San Bernardino, people were saying the opposite. I will share that experience, the centrality of the Eucharist as a foundation and as an identity of who we are as a local church as people of God here in this corner very close to the mountains and also how the Spirit is at work here. The diversity and the call that we have, not that we have arrived, this diocese is almost 50 years [old], but I think the call that we have to live in communion in our diversity. I’m talking about different gifts, different generations, different ways of thinking, different experiences that make us who we are. I would also like to share about the bishops we have had here. I think that in the past 27 years [with] Bishop Barnes and the last 3 years with Bishop Rojas has really embraced synodality as a way of living.

Q: What do you hope to learn from your participation in the Synod?
To learn that there is still a lot to learn. I am an educator, my religious community, Sisters of the Company of Mary, we are educators and we have over 400 years of this history. An educator is always learning to serve in a new way. So, my hope is that what I know now will be expanded and to be so convinced in my DNA that learning is the way. That you can learn even from the experiences that you feel have no potential to teach you anything and that you can learn from any person that even though you have in your head that person is not going to teach you anything.

Q: What hopes should the people of the Diocese have for this Synod?
A: For everybody who feels that they belong to the Church or not, they will hope that we are a community that is open, a community that is compassionate, and a community that is welcoming for people to come and journey together. Also, for us to expand the borders of the Church. The church is not only where the parish is, but goes out to the periphery, to the outskirts where we don’t know someone lives there. That we will be a Church that is not only inclusive but a Church that opens and expands our concept and meaning of Church. The Church has been always a synodal Church but sometimes and many times, we forget. I think this is a good reminder to all of us of what we are called to be. You can learn the concept of Synodality in your head but what I think changes your life is when you experience it. When you experience that you are not by yourself, that you think different than [the] other person that you are walking [with] and that you are part of the body of Christ. That is important and that is our hope.

Elena Macias is the Managing Editor of the Inland Catholic BYTE.