Synod on Synodality Parish Report


The Synod on Synodality is a two-year consultative process that engages the faithful to evaluate the Church’s adherence to her mission through the pillars of communion, participation, and mission. Unlike a council starting in Rome and then promulgated to the faithful around the world, a synod commences at the local level and is communicated back to Rome. At Saint Matthew, we implemented the synod survey through the direction of the Diocese of Nashville and made the survey accessible to all members. We provided both synod listening sessions and access to the survey through various digital platforms. As the Synod on Synodality has completed its parish-level phases within our parish, the following report synthesizes the various responses from the laity of Saint Matthew noting trends and commonalities, areas of discrepancy, outliers, unique opinions, and areas of consensus. As the Synod was intended to accomplish as a whole, this report seeks to understand and proclaim the laity’s current situation, needs, and calls for action for both Saint Matthew on a parish level and Holy Mother Church at large. 


While the Synod on Synodality was communicated and outlined prior to its launch, the purpose and understanding of the synod have been a confusing initiative within the Church for many of the laity. For some, it seemed to be a simple “survey” the Vatican called for in order to proclaim a “State of the Union Address” at its completion, to use an American political analogy. Or, that its results would be compiled to create a democratic popular vote as to the next “steps” the Church should take into the future.  

The Catholic Church can be a puzzling entity to describe, living as Americans in a democratic republic. Often the Church has been likened to a ship, which can certainly be a helpful analogy, but this too can be misunderstood as a ship that changes direction whenever there is a captain and crew turnover, as there may be in a polity. There is no perfect analogy for our understanding of the One True Church, but one of the most helpful is that of a tree. Jesus Christ instituted it Catholic Church two thousand years ago and planted an acorn, budding its first few leaves, with Peter as its trunk (see Matthew 16:18-19). Indeed, in different eras of history, the Church responds and even adapts as a tree might to water and light sources, but it is always the same tree. It is better to say the Church “grows” rather than “changes” since it is always the same Church guarding and proclaiming the same Gospel Christ did on the Sermon on the Mount. As Christ does not artificially change (Hebrews 13:8) so too His bride, the Church, cannot be altered. In councils and synods, the Church may deepen her understanding of something—as a tree may grow a new branch—but she never changes, such as planting an entirely new acorn. This fundamental departure from the Church’s dogma is what we call heresy, and it is often councils and synods that address these issues and clarify the Church amid a given era’s challenges. 

While the Church has not and nor ever will fundamentally change—such as planting an entirely new tree—the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel to every generation. The Church’s mission, and our mission as the lay faithful, is to always propose the Gospel in the world, lovingly and with open arms, without altogether altering what the Gospel is and becoming “of the world” (cf. 1John 2:15, John 18:36, Phil. 3:20). It is in this spirit that began the Church at Pentecost proclaiming the Gospel to the masses then that we are now still called to grow the Church, starting with our own interior conversion and then through welcoming in new members to Her body. The Synod on Synodality is a process, now two-thirds completed, where we as the faithful reflect on how we are living out this mission in our current world. How are we, individually, in our interior conversions and prayer lives? How are we accompanying those outside of the Church or those who have fallen away from the Church? 

These are the questions and reflections the Synod on Synodality has called us to ponder so that we may grow in deeper conversion, illumine areas we can strengthen our own “branch” of the oak tree here at Saint Matthew, and lastly ponder how we can better serve as faithful Catholics in the Church as a whole in the modern world. While the Church is not and never has been “of the world,” She has always been “in it,” and the Synod on Synodality is a process in which the laity can prayerfully discern how we can continue to shine light in this dark and broken world always in need of the Church’s light, hope, and comfort. Put in another way, the Church’s Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. 

Part 1: Communion

Our parish provides ample participation in the sacramental life given the laity’s understanding and current openness for the sacraments. That being said, there is always room for growth in which to enhance access and experience of receiving the sacraments. The majority of respondents in the survey articulated that at a basic level the laity require a thorough understanding of the importance and need of the sacraments. This assertion matches the pew study in 2019 that revealed Catholics had a glaring lack of belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. Given this, our job as a parish is to lovingly convey to our members the vital importance of the sacraments and our transformation as we openly embrace them.

As the laity begins to grasp their longing for the sacraments, their demand for a greater access to the sacraments will intensify. Here, greater frequency of adoration, confession and the experience of humbly receiving the sacraments can be addressed to include a grander reverence in the nuances of worship in the liturgy. The consensus among the respondents addressed some examples to include: implementing other forms of reverent music whether Gregorian chant or more contemporary music, more traditional Catholic aesthetics in the Mass so as to enhance the sacred atmosphere, and better communications regarding access to the sacraments. 

The overall experience of participating (i.e. receiving) in the sacraments acts as a gradual alteration in our parish that matches the laity’s conversion experience. The nature of the opposing responses in the survey revealed a distinction in how certain members view the role of the church. Nevertheless, we must realize that because the laity live most of their life in the modern world that moves in the opposite direction of the Church, (see 1 Cor. 3:19, Romans 12:2, Col. 3:1-2,5, Eph. 1:1-3, 1John 2:114-17, 5:19, James 1:27, 4:4), their experience of the sacraments should not fit under the modern lens. To this end, the Church must communicate the distinction between the sacramental life of the Church and the false “sacramental life” of the world and how an integration of both would be contrary to the purpose of the Church.

In summary, the survey revealed that our parish does afford participation in the sacramental life and can work to heighten this encounter through education on the importance of the sacramental life and an increase in presenting the sacraments in a sacred environment.

Our liturgical celebrations first and foremost draw people closer to authentically worshiping the Holy Trinity. As our parish experiences being a part of Divine worship, our community will grow stronger. The concept of community is vital to our parish as the more people feel connected to other Catholic believers and to our parish, the greater their faith will increase, which, in turn, allows for our faith to flourish. Many respondents noted the inevitable consequence of the covid restrictions in 2020-2021 which hampered the communal opportunities in our parish for a prolonged period of time.  Given the lifting of the covid restrictions, our parish will be moving to a greater adherence of community. To promote community, we will be enacting various gatherings and enhancements to our fellowship engagement. Some of these suggestions include bringing back hospitality ministers to act as greeters, family participation in bringing up the gifts, as well as the publication of our parish newsletter, “The Levi.” Other future endeavors forthcoming include; hosting “Community Sunday” after Mass and parish-wide social events throughout the year.

In addition to these events, other common suggestions from the synod make valid points in which to integrate community into other liturgical celebrations. We might consider having baptisms to be a part of the Mass. This way, the parish at large can be a part of a baptism and connect the baptized family with the other families within the parish. Weddings offer an opportunity where the parish can acknowledge or celebrate with the family. Detailed funeral announcements allow the parish to pray for the deceased as a community and offer condolences and support to the family in need. Finally, active participation in adoration acts as a way we can work together as a parish community to make sure we provide our Lord with companionship throughout the day. After all, nothing promotes community greater than parishioners standing shoulder to shoulder in prayer and worship to our Lord. In this respect, community is showcased as we are different members yet all united in Christ.

Lastly, the synod responses highlighted that a community feel has been incorporated through our communications campaign in producing videos and the various written reflections in the bulletin. These touchpoints serve as a way we can provide the parish with a personal touch to members to further spread community.  

Our parish strives to provide a sense of belonging with all members. As we grow in an authentic sacramental life and community, members will necessarily experience a sense of fitting in. As members, both new and current, begin to grasp that they are a part of the mystical body of Christ and all play an integral role (see 1 Cor. 12:12-27), their appreciation of being a part of this mission and church will increase. Infused with a purpose and mission, one necessarily will undergo a sense of belonging to the Church. 

Our parish must thoroughly articulate that all members, regardless of their distinctions, play a vital role to the mission of the Church. Avenues in which we can communicate to the laity of our collective mission to help save souls can be made through homilies, reflections, and everyday discussions. At a practical level, we have implemented small measures that foster a sense of belonging with hospitality ministers, personal communications, and prayer requests. However, the majority of respondents highlighted that an increase in personal invitations to new and existing members will help engage members so as to enhance a welcoming experience. Some suggestions include the announcement of new members and new member social events.

For both new and current members, Saint Matthew provides ample volunteer opportunities in which the laity can experience a sense of belonging. When the laity have access to serve the parish in a variety of roles, this will greatly enhance their sense of purpose and participation in the parish. While volunteer opportunities do exist, the survey illuminated that a streamlined process of engaging and interacting with volunteers can always be improved.

Another avenue in which a sense of belonging can be achieved is to present a parish-wide ministry fair. With this, all members can feel better connected to the various ministries the parish offers and ascertain which ministries they can be a part of as members or volunteers.

In conclusion, the synod highlighted ways we are currently providing a sense of belonging but also presented a need to express the mission and purpose to heighten the sense of belonging all the while providing administrative solutions to improve the volunteer experience. 

Our parish endeavors to provide a calming respite from the anxieties of the world. In this, we work to offer conveniences of access to a sacred, quiet environment in which people can get away from the busyness of the world and experience a spiritual encounter. The majority of the synod responses reflect this reality in that we are called to offer a peaceful reprieve that acknowledges the faithful are in the world but not of the world (see 1John 2:15, John 18:36, Phil. 3:20). Given this, our focus in offering a peaceful reprieve must be centered on spiritual practices coupled with small doses of basic human needs (smiling greeters, personal connection). A consensus of respondents highlighted such examples of reprieve to include: frequent adoration, vespers, Bible studies, group prayer time (e.g. rosary, chaplet, etc.), and ministries centered on specific emotional needs (e.g. bereavement ministry).

While Saint Matthew affords these spiritual outlets to the faithful, the frequency and access to them may need to be amplified given the faithful’s need to detach themselves from the worries of this world. While we do offer around-the-clock access to the chapel, some respondents noted that advertising the chapel code and increasing promotion of our spiritual practices will help increase awareness. Finally, the summary of responses revealed that greater coordination of scheduling, facilitating, and publicizing these avenues of spiritual practices is necessary to better foster reprieve.    

Part 2: Participation

Saint Matthew offers a variety of channels to foster lay participation in the Church. The synod responses revealed that, for the most part, our parish provides ample opportunities for one to volunteer in a range of ministries and roles. The responses further highlighted that despite adequate volunteer opportunities, the same people tend to continuously volunteer. In this, the participation of volunteers remains stagnant. Some valid suggestions were given to invoke interest in the participation of members. They include: presenting a ministry fair to highlight different roles within each ministry, sending out personal invitations from church staff to be a part of a ministry or program, empowering the laity to organize events, developing a volunteer coordinator role in the parish, and creating a thorough description of each volunteer function.

We understand that as the laity’s faith increases, their zeal to participate in the life of the Church will naturally expand and more members will seek out ways to actively volunteer. To this end, while we provide avenues for participation we must also work to enhance the laity’s sacramental experience. In short, the synod addressed the notion that we will be able to tap into a greater abundance of lay participation in the life of the church as the faith of the laity increases from the sacramental life.   

We understand that parents are the primary catechists (CCC 1653, 2221) and the family should be viewed as the domestic church (CCC 1656, 1666) in which parents continuously transmute the faith to their children. Given this, we strive to provide helpful resources and training so parents can effectively pass on their faith to their children. In 2021, Saint Matthew purchased a parish-wide subscription to FORMED, a digital-based faith formation platform for adults and children. Now, parents have convenient access to a wide variety of rich Catholic content for the whole family. In addition, the Religious Education program provides parents with a monthly e-newsletter that allows parents to present specific formation topics to their children.

The synod responses did showcase that despite these efforts of equipping parents, parent involvement in passing on the faith appears to be sluggish. The synod analysis revealed that the lack of parental commitment might be due to poor formation of the parents – either in marriage preparation or in an understanding of their true vocation as parents. To this end, the Church can help parents by reminding them that their primary duty is to get their spouse and children to heaven. We can utilize our messages at Mass or other communication channels to highlight the importance of the salvation of children’s souls. The consensus of respondents outlined that a re-proclamation of the parent’s mission can help facilitate more parent involvement to strengthen the domestic church.

Additionally, further suggestions noted we can offer parents more adult-faith sessions that will equip their role as teachers of the faith. Through our adult-faith ministry, we can focus our mission on the formation and training of parents so they can become sound catechists and leaders for their children. 

In summary, the synod survey communicated that while efforts have been made to equip parents, we must focus on the deeper need of invoking a sense of spiritual urgency for parents so they can actively educate their children in partnership with our religious education ministry.

Our youth program is helpful in cultivating a zeal for the faith of our teenagers. The synod survey revealed that our LifeTeen ministry is active and vibrant in engaging the youth on the teachings of the Church as it relates to where they are at. Multiple responses indicated the need to talk to the youth about the hard topics that they are presented with in the modern world. These range from questions pertaining to human sexuality to one’s search for meaning. The LifeTeen ministry provides many of its members a unique opportunity to discuss these very questions in a healthy environment when they otherwise would be unavailable. Additionally, responses showcased how our LifeTeen ministry offers opportunities for these discussions through various retreats that communicate to the youth the beauty of the church and growing as a witness of the faith.

Saint Matthew gives voice to our youth through LifeTeen and involves them in parish-wide activities (confirmation retreat, volunteer opportunities, Alive-In You Mission Trip) and participation in Diocesan-wide events (Search, Youth Leadership Workshop). Possible areas of improvement that were addressed include: further recruitment of teens as lectors, altar servers, greeters, and other areas of teen leadership.

The synod survey did outline a glaring lack of engagement for our young-adult population as currently, we have no specific ministry dedicated to those in their 20-30s. There have been discussions of partnering with other parishes (Holy Family, Cathedral) in order to cultivate a ministry to young adults but at this point, further development is needed.  

In conclusion, the survey communicated that while our youth are at a difficult age of understanding coupled with the confusing nature of the culture, we continue to provide a stable base for the teens in an understanding of who they are so as to enrich their spiritual appetite. As we continue to enrich our Life Teen ministry and foster a strong sacramental life, our teens will experience an authentic encounter with Christ.

Saint Matthew works to serve all members of our community regardless of our distinctions. As St. Paul announced, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). While individual distinctions do exist, and at times, the distinctions may limit one, these differences should not act as a barrier to all receiving Christ. Saint Matthew’s campus and sacramental life are available for all humble seekers regardless of their age, race, or economic status. Our RCIA program holds no restrictions for people of all backgrounds to receive the sacraments (other than as stipulated by canon law). In addition, we offer services geared to the corporal works of mercy through a collaboration with Room At The Inn, St. Vincent De Paul, and our Haiti outreach. A majority of the respondents mentioned these programs as a way to reach the disadvantaged. Some as well addressed ways (donations, volunteers) to better expand their reach.

The synod survey did shed light on certain areas that need to be addressed moving forward. While Saint Matthew does have an inclusive program that serves those with special needs in the school and religious education, additional resources and training are necessary here in order to better aid those with disabilities. 

Additionally, while our home-bound ministry is active and offers the Eucharist as well as comfort to the elderly that are confined to their home, additional assistance to our senior population would be welcomed. Oftentimes, seniors need a ride to the church and assistance to support their medical needs. Some practical solutions that were proposed are to connect the home-bound to nearby parishioners to assist as an “adopt a senior” program.

The synod also revealed that while Saint Matthew is located in an affluent area, we must not be tempted to allow large donors to hold inflated sway on important parish decisions. To this end, we must give voice to those of lower economic status and not have our mission be diverted to merely producing financially sound results.

In conclusion, while Saint Matthew strives to elevate any barrier that can surface on living out the faith, we must continue to make strides to give Christ to all regardless of their state in life. 

Part 3: Mission

Saint Matthew has a multitude of opportunities to, as our motto says, deepen one’s Catholic faith. This includes high school student youth ministry, a female bible study and book club, a men’s group open to all men in the parish regardless of religious affiliation, a Catholic-specific formation group for men, availability of formation content to the entire parish through, children’s religious education, and Rite of Christian Initiation for both adults and children, among many others.

Interestingly, within the synod’s responses, there were many calls for more opportunities when many ministries are readily available. This seemed to indicate a gap where some of the faithful are not connecting with the opportunities they seek. Many other respondents of this Synod question understood this, with some admitting there is an abundance of opportunities to deepen one’s faith, but it requires the motivation of the parishioner to invest in it; others called for greater communication of these opportunities to the faithful. In both of these cases, however, it is clear that Saint Matthew has not yet returned to the” original” pre-pandemic normal with involvement and initiative among parishioners. Other factors could be at play–as the diversity of responses helped illumine, such as ministry leadership changes–but above all, it seems that there are many opportunities for the various groups of the laity at Saint Matthew, and its pre-pandemic “rhythm” is still finding its tempo. 

Lastly, while some voiced the need to reach outside the parish more while others emphasized formation and catechesis within the parish, there was a consensus amongst almost all of the respondents looking for the Church’s voice amid the world today, particularly in difficult, even controversial, but important topics. Looking ahead, our primary task is to encourage initiative and involvement among parishioners to take advantage of our existing plethora of ministries that provide the grassroots community and formation many desire while at the same time increasing in frequency and size of stand-alone formation events. This may include investing in more speakers to come to our campus to speak about a particular topic pertinent to our life as Catholics in the modern world to even a larger-scale parish mission once a year we can begin hosting. It could very well be that many parishioners seek a deeper formation but cannot commit to a weekly or monthly group or ministry within the parish, and thus rely only on sermons for their own formation. We believe stand-alone events will be a great benefit to not only this group of parishioners, but all other parishioners as well who are already involved and engaged.

In the spirit of our own patron, Saint Matthew, we strive to go forth and proclaim the Gospel (Matt 28:19) outside our parish in both various denominations and various ways. This is how our faith is proclaimed and grows in the world to bring more faithful into the Church. Saint Matthew currently has multiple ministries that are open to the public and do integrate with other faith denominations outside our parish.

At the same time, the majority of respondents within our parish called for a greater effort for outreach to ensure we do not become insulated. Some examples include hosting a Seder Dinner inviting our Jewish brethren to celebrate with, being more present to the Williamson County community at events, and joining forces with other denominations in the fight against abortion and protecting the sanctity of life. Moving forward, we will continue to promote and enhance our multi-denominational outreach. This includes our current partnership with Brentwood Baptist’s volunteer workshop, as well as our existing ministries within our parish that are open to all where we can walk shoulder to shoulder with our brethren emphasizing and even celebrating the Good we share in common to grow in solidarity and increase opportunities for conversions.

For the final question on the Synod on Synodality, most respondents took the opportunity to finalize and conclude their thoughts on what should take priority. Most respondents listed two to five critical points of focus, and most respondents took the time to address both Saint Matthew Church as well as the Catholic Church at large. In a similar thread from the previous question’s responses, the final question’s results revealed a general divide between parishioners prioritizing the need for more external activity with the other majority placing the priority on internal formation and catechesis. Interestingly, while there was an overall divide on how to solve the greatest issues, there was a consensus on why among the laity. The consensus among almost all of the respondents voiced the need for the Church to be a shepherd and foundation within the confusion of the world.

While some called for increased activity or engagement with the world to not be insulated, while others called for greater clarity and vocalization of the Church’s true teachings and how they relate to current political or social issues, most every respondent seemed to desire Saint Matthew and the Church to shine forth as a beacon of clarity, wisdom, love, and stability. The faithful want to know the Church is there amid the pressing challenges of our day.

Specifically, topics that came up frequently were the sanctity of life and abortion, guidance for conscientious voting, honesty as well as help in addressing the clergy sex abuse scandals, more catechesis to address “cafeteria Catholics,” and a whole array of marriage and family issues from SSA, addressing the LGBTQ movement in relation to the Church, sexual morality, and strengthening marriages. As previously mentioned, it is possible that as Saint Matthew continues to return to its previous level of activity and engagement among parishioners, particularly within existing ministries and clubs, the opportunities for dialogue and guidance will continue to increase. That said, it is clear that there is a strong consensus for the Church’s voice and guidance to be known for the faithful to follow. As we continue to come out of the pandemic’s norms, increase awareness and thereby engagement in existing ministries, and provide further stand-alone formation opportunities for the parish, we will truly deepen our Catholic faith together, grow as a parish, and most importantly, grow as a body of aspiring saints.


As we draw our conclusions, we see where the synod has shed light on what the Church is, her mission, and how the synod brings together the faithful to this mission. As well, The Church asserts that the faithful are fully embedded in living out the call of the Church. The faithful play a vital role in the Church’s objective to save souls. Yet, the synod revealed the spiritual adage that St. Ignatius proclaimed, “You cannot give what you do not have.” That is, we, collectively as a parish, cannot effectively engage in the process of helping save souls until we first focus on our interior souls and need for salvation. 

The underlying theme that surfaced during our synod was that in order for the parish to flourish, the faith of the laity needs to be set ablaze. While enriching ministries and improved programs may move the needle closer to a spiritual conversion, the teachings of Christ clearly illuminate that one first needs to foster an interior encounter with Christ for the faith of others to expand. We see such teaching exemplified in Jesus’s exchange with Mary and Martha (see Luke 10: 38-42). Here, Jesus went to the house of these two sisters to teach. Mary chose to sit quietly at Jesus’s feet and receive from His teachings while Martha chose to work tirelessly to serve Him. Martha, being slightly annoyed at Mary’s inactivity pleaded to Jesus for her help. But, Jesus’s response to Martha revealed that quiet contemplation and open reception of Jesus takes precedence over the busyness of actively serving. In fact, Jesus’s response insinuated that too much activity without silent reflection will take one off his or her mission. This story also reveals that these two components of silent contemplation and active service will work in harmony with each other only if the initial focus is on the former rather than the latter. Thus, the emphasis needs to be on the interior spiritual encounter precisely so the exterior functions of active ministries can thrive. From this reflection and the overall synod responses, we can conclude that Saint Matthew must fixate on the spiritual encounter in the sacraments in order to enhance our mission. In short, we need to strive to be Mary’s instead of Martha’s. As we do this, we will become effective at doing the work of Martha – precisely because we’ve sat at the feet of Christ before doing our work. St. Vincent de Paul noted that in doing God’s work we must first align ourselves to the interior life rather than the exterior acts when he says, “It is necessary that we be more inactive than active.”

At Saint Matthew, we continue to endeavor to provide a spiritual encounter with Christ in the Sacraments as well as offer a wide variety of ministries to nourish and expand the faith to others. We have been blessed with having members that embrace the sacramental life and help cultivate our ministries. Pope Francis has given emphasis on the importance of listening during this synodal process. As we have listened the synod has now allowed us to ponder our efforts as a mystical body in lovingly doing the work of evangelization. As we reflect on this synod let us go forth into the sacramental life and our ministries to allow this endeavor of the synod to produce fruit for the kingdom.