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The following story appeared in the January 28 Idaho Catholic Register.

By Gene Fadness


Bishop Peter Christensen earlier this week launched the diocesan-level phase of the worldwide Church’s “Synod on Synodality” that culminates with a Synod of Bishops in October 2023.

Pope Francis is calling the Church to an intensive process of encounter, listening and discernment, selecting as the theme of the synod: “For A Synodal Church: Community, Participation and Mission.”

In this first “diocesan” phase of the process, Bishop Peter will offer Adoration and Mass followed by table discussions in each deanery (region) of the diocese. The first of these began Tuesday night (Jan. 25) with Adoration and Mass at St. Mary’s in American Falls. That was followed by a similar event at St. John’s Catholic Student Center on the Idaho State University Campus in Pocatello on Wednesday night (Jan. 26).

At these sessions, participants will be given three questions to pray about during Adoration and Mass and then discuss. The questions are an effort for Church leaders to get a sense from the faithful of how the Church can better journey toward its heavenly destination given the challenges of the new millennium.

The questions are not released in advance to give people time to pray about them during Adoration and Mass and not come to the event with preconceived notions, agendas or biases. “It is especially important that this listening process happen in a spiritual setting that supports openness in sharing as well as hearing,” says a document prepared by the Synod of Bishops. “For this reason, you are encouraged to root the local experience of the Synodal Process in meditation on scripture, the liturgy and prayer.”

The diocesan phase concludes in August with each diocese submitting a document of findings to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That launches the continental phase, where each of the seven international bishops’ conferences will meet to prepare a document to present to Rome in advance of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishop in October 2023.

The Synod of Bishops’ document states that the Synod is taking place in the context of major events both internationally and within the Church.

Internationally, the Synod takes place in the midst of “a global pandemic, local and international conflicts, (the) growing impact of climate change, migration, various forms of injustice, racism, violence, persecution, and increasing inequalities across humanity.”

Within the Church, “the context is also marked by the suffering experienced by minors and vulnerable people due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power, and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. With all this being said, we find ourselves at a crucial moment in the life of the Church and the world,” the document states. “In the midst of this context, synodality represents the path by the Church can be renewed by the action of the Holy Spirit, listening together to what God has to say to His people.”

THE IDEA OF a synod is not new, but has always been a part of the identity of the people of God dating back to ancient times. Synod is a compound word that comes from the Greek “syn-hodos.”

“Syn” means “together” (from which we get terms like syn-ergy and synagogue) and “hodos,” which means “path,” “way” or “journey.”

During a presentation on the Synod by theologian Thomas Smith and Deacon Scott Pearhill at Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Pocatello, Smith noted that scripture continually points to examples of God’s people engaged in a journey of encounter, listening and discerning.

Smith cited examples such as the 40-year Exodus of God’s people to the promised land; of Jesus’ encounter with the discouraged disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24); St. Peter’s encounter with Cornelius (Acts 10); and, finally, the readings all will hear this year in Mass from St. Luke (especially chapters 9-19). These readings recount the story of Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem and His encounters along the way. In fact, Smith points out, Jesus identifies Himself as the “Way” (John 14:6) and the early Church in the Book of Acts was identified the people of “The Way.”

In a recent Idaho Catholic Register column, Bishop Peter Christensen noted that the encounter, listening and discerning components of the Synod tie in well with the three-year Eucharistic Renewal launched by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. Eucharistic Adoration, the Bishop said, includes an encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, listening to what He is saying and then discerning how one responds.

The worldwide Church in this synodal process is in the midst of its own “holy hour,” Deacon Pearhill notes, as it seeks to encounter, listen and discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church through its people.

Pope Francis is encouraging dioceses to do all they can to reach out not only to the faithful, but also to those harmed or offended by the faith. “Special care should be taken to involve those persons who may risk being excluded: women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty and Catholics who rarely or never practice the faith. Creative means should also be found in order to involve children and youth,” the document from the Synod of Bishops states.

The concepts of communion, participation and mission are key to the process.

Communion signifies our unity in community, best exemplified by the love and unity in the community of the Holy Trinity. Thus, the synodal process is grounded in those things that make us one community: the Word of God and the living Tradition of the Church grounded in the “sensus fidei” or “sense of the faithful.”

Thus, to preserve the communion of the faithful, the Synod is not an attempt to alter foundational Catholic teaching, Deacon Pearhill noted, but may result in changes that are rooted in historical practices, not doctrine. As an example, he cited the change made to a prayer regarding the Jewish people in the Good Friday liturgy.

During this process of synodality there is both conserving “as we reflect on where we’ve been,” and progressing “as we journey to where God is calling us,” Deacon Pearhill said. “We look back to discover our roots. We also look forward to the Kingdom of God to which God is guiding us.”

Participation means that all who belong to the people of God – laity, consecrated and ordained – are called to be involved to be engaged in “deep and respectful listening to one another.” Listening is more than just hearing but “heart-listening,” or listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through that person, Deacon Pearhill said.

“Synodality with our neighbor is fundamental to being Catholic,” Deacon Pearhill said. “You can’t be a unified people in a worldwide Church if everybody is self-assertive and not taking the time to encounter, listen and discern what their neighbor has to say and how the Holy Spirit might be speaking through that neighbor. We need synodality to stay Catholic,” he said. That includes ridding ourselves of preconceived notions and biases, he said. “We have to let down our defense of long-held perspectives or opinions in order to receive the freshness the Spirit wishes to bestow upon us through others.”

In fact, synodality is the antidote, or exact opposite, to the “divisive and acrimonious style of speech that we encounter in our politics and in the world today,” Deacon Pearhill said.

Finally, the Church is called to mission or to evangelization to the world, and it cannot do this if it is not united. “The whole world is supposed to encounter this synodality through us,” Deacon Pearhill said.

In order to be successful, participants must be open to conversion and change, the Synod of Bishops document states. The document calls on participants to avoid a number of temptations and pitfalls including: 1) wanting to lead ourselves instead of being led by God, 2) focusing only on ourselves and immediate concerns, 3) seeing only problems, 4) focusing only on existing structures, 5) refusing to look beyond the visible confines of the Church, 6) viewing the Synod as something that is going to resolve all our concerns and problems, 7) viewing the Synod as an opportunity to foment conflict or division, 8) treating the synod as a “parliament” or political battle where one side must defeat the other, and 9) listening only to those who are already involved in Church activities.

Deacon Pearhill noted Pope Francis’ encouragement to listen and be open to change. “If everything in life just as it was before, you’re probably a museum,” the pope said. Pope Francis prayed, “Come Holy Spirit, you inspire new tongues and place words of life on our lips. Keep us from becoming a museum Church: beautiful, but mute, with much past and little future.”


Diocese of Boise Synod Committee

The following story appeared in the January 28 Idaho Catholic Register.

Bishop Peter Christensen appointed 16 members of a “Diocesan Synodal Path Committee,” whose members will assist the Bishop to coordinate the events throughout the Diocese and prepare the document to present to the U.S. Bishops.

Those committee members include:

Christian Welp is heading up the committee, has been the Director of Special Projects for the Diocese of Boise for the last six years. He has a degree in Humanities from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Before he came to the Diocese, he was the vice president of enlistment for the Better Business Bureau. He and his wife, Jillian, are the parents of nine children with another on the way.

Doug Alles is executive director of Catholic Charities, an organization that advocates for refugees and migrants, and offers a variety of social services that improve lives, promote dignity and build individual and family self-sufficiency. Previous positions are with Community Youth Services of Washing-ton County in Beaverton, Ore.; the Private Industry Council in Portland and then with Catholic Charities of Oregon, serving as interim executive director before coming to Idaho.

Leticia Espinoza, a native of Jalisco, Mexico, is involved in Hispanic ministry at St. Therese Little Flower Parish in Burley where she has helped with baptism classes and marriage preparation.

Jessica Gallegos was born and raised in Pocatello to a Mexican father and a Mexican-American mother. She is the Director of Christian Education for kindergarten through 12th grade at Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Pocatello. She received an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Care and Education from Idaho State University.

Sister Anthony Marie Greving is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, where she lives in community with others Sisters on a farm outside Pocatello. The community is dedicated to family life in all its aspects from children to the elderly. In addition to assisting with individual and group retreats for lay brothers and sisters, Sister Anthony Marie coordinates a Widows’ Group for Holy Spirit Parish in Pocatello. After 40 years of working with the Aging Program in southeast Idaho, her professional work currently takes her to Idaho State University coordinating the Geriatric Certificate Program.

Deacon Rob and Teresa Groom, Deacon Groom was raised in Grangeville, the fourth generation of his family to be members of St. Peter and Paul Parish. He attended the parish grade school and after graduating from Grangeville High School in 1979, attended the University of Idaho for one year. He currently ranches in Grangeville and manages the local cemetery district. In 1983, he married his high school sweetheart, Teresa, who joined the Catholic Church at that time. Teresa has been a teacher and was later principal at Sts. Peter and Paul School for 29 years. Deacon Groom is a Fourth Degree Knight and has also served as a district deputy for the Knights of Columbus. The Grooms have four children and three grandchildren.

Lorissa Horn has an extensive background in youth ministry for 25 years, currently serving with her husband, Johnny, as a youth minister at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and is also Director of Campus Ministry at Bishop Kelly High School. Lorissa is also a certified Life coach and co-owns a Catholic life coaching company, Made for Greatness, with her business partner, Sterling Jacquith. The Horns have been married for 18 years and have seven children.

Father Rob Irwin is a chaplain at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. He attended Oregon State University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in communications. A lifelong Catholic, Father Irwin became involved in youth ministry. He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Baker, Oregon, in 1995, after graduating from Mount Angel Seminary. After serving parishes in Pendleton, Baker City and Ontario, Father Irwin was incardinated in the Diocese of Boise. He served as a parochial vicar in Post Falls (2010-11), administrator at Good Shepherd in Soda Springs (2011-13), pastor at St. Jerome’s in Jerome (2013-17) and pastor at Our Lady of the Valley in Caldwell (2017-18).

Tina Johnson has been a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish for 35 years. A graduate of Gonzaga University, she is a dental hygienist. She served on the board of the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation, was on the McEuen Park Steering Committee, the Dike Levee Committee and was a member of the Coeur d’Alene Arts Commission. For the church, she was one of the original members of the Serra Club of North Idaho, which promotes vocations, and also chaired the Mission House remodel project. She and her husband, Gary, both natives of Dallas, have two children.

Dan and Peggy Minnaert have been married for more than 33 years and have four children. He is employed as a commercial real estate agent and she is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. Throughout their years in Boise, they have been involved in many ministries from youth group ministry, to evangelization retreats, marriage preparation and other marriage ministries. Currently, they are members the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and are part of the high school youth ministry program.

Deacon Scott Pearhill was ordained to the diaconate in October, 2011 and was assigned to Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Pocatello and Chub-buck. He received a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University, New Orleans, in 1999, and a Doctorate in Ministry in 2019 from Mount Angel Seminary. In 2021, Deacon Pearhill became the parish Pastoral Associate for Administration. Most recently, Deacon Pearhill is helping to coordinate local aid to Afghan refugees who are being resettled in Pocatello. He serves as vice president of the Portneuf Valley Interfaith Fellowship. Deacon Pearhill and his wife, Marcy, were married in 1992 and have two adult sons.

Dr. Bryan Taylor, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Caldwell, is the prosecuting attorney for Canyon County and chairs the Diocesan Sexual Review Board. He is finalizing his degree in Canon Law to assist the Diocese in matrimonial cases. Dr. Taylor has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Boise State University; a Master of Arts in Theology from Christendom Graduate School of Theology (affiliated with Notre Dame Graduate School); a law degree from the University of Denver; and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Adult, Organizational Learning and Leadership from the University of Idaho. Dr. Taylor and his wife, Katie, have two children.

Eddie Trask has a master’s degree in business administration from Sonoma State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute. A revert to the Church in 2019, he joined the Augustine Institute as the Mobile App Product Manager to help launch a new Catholic prayer app called “Amen.” He is a Third Degree Knight of Columbus and is co-host of Salt & Light Radio’s “Man Cave” show. He serves as the Idaho representative for the Catholic Men’s Leadership Alliance. In 2021, he launched a podcast and YouTube show, “Catholic Re.Con,” that features reversion and conversion testimonies. He has written a book, “Confession All: A Humiliating, Tormented Pilgrimage to God’s Will.” Trask and his wife of 12 years, Ashley, have five children.

Father Caleb Vogel is the Vicar General for the Diocese of Boise. Born in Jerome, he attended Mount Angel Seminary and St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, Calif. He was ordained on July 10, 2004, in Boise by Bishop Michael Driscoll. He served as parochial vicar at St. John Paul II Parish in Idaho Falls (2004-06) and as administrator and then pastor at Mary Immaculate in St. Anthony (2006-09). He served as pastor at St. Augustine’s Student Center in Moscow (2009-15). He became the pastor at St. Paul’s in Nampa in 2015 and served there until 2021 when he was named vicar general for the Diocese.


Bishop Peter Christensen will visit each of the six deaneries of the Diocese to lead Adoration, celebrate Mass and help facilitate table discussions as part of the Diocese of Boise’s participation in the worldwide Synod on Synodality. The events are in conjunction the Bishop’s annual tour of the Diocese to conduct the Rite of Election for catechumens and candidates who are coming into full union with the Church this Easter.

The Bishop was in the Eastern Deanery Jan. 24-26 with a Rite of Election in Idaho Falls and two Adoration and Mass celebrations in American Falls and at St. John’s Catholic Student Center at Idaho State University.


Sunday, Feb. 20, at 3 p.m. – Adoration and Mass at St. Joseph’s Parish, Sandpoint.

Monday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. – Rite of Election, St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Coeur d’Alene.

Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 5:30 p.m. – Adoration and Mass at St. Mary Immaculate Parish, St. Maries.


Wednesday, Feb. 23, at 5:30 p.m. – Adoration and Mass at St. Augustine Catholic Student Center, Moscow.

Thursday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. – Rite of Election, All Saints Parish, Lewiston.

Friday, Feb. 25, at 5:30 p.m. – Adoration and Mass at St. Theresa Parish, Orofino.


Friday, March 4, at 5:30 p.m. – Adoration and Mass at St. Therese Little Flower Parish, Burley.

Saturday, March 5, at 5 p.m. – Rite of Election, St. Edward the Confessor Parish, Twin Falls.

Sunday, March 6, at 3 p.m. – Adoration and Mass at St. Elizabeth’s, Gooding.


Wednesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. – Rite of Election, St. Agnes Parish, Weiser.

Thursday, March 10, at 5:30 p.m. – Adoration and Mass, St. Paul’s Parish, Nampa.

Friday, March 11, at 7 p.m. – Idaho Catholic Youth Convention, Nampa.


Monday, March 14, at 7 p.m. – Rite of Election, Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Boise

Tuesday, March 15, at 5:30 p.m. – Adoration and Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mountain Home

Wednesday, March 16, at 5:30 p.m. – Adoration and Mass at Sacred Heart Parish, Boise.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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