On January 24, Neumann University hosted Archbishop Nelson Pérez and college students from across the Delaware Valley for the Catholic College Synodal Gathering. The event, which followed the example of the listening sessions of the universal church's synod, was an evening of faith-sharing and fellowship as the students shared concerns and dreams for the church with the archbishop.
In July 2021, Pope Francis invited the entire church to participate in his "For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission." This synod is a global effort, and the Pope has specifically recognized the role of colleges and universities in this two-year process that will conclude in 2023. It encourages Catholics to walk the same road together while encountering, listening, and discerning one another. This is also going on in Catholic parishes around the world.
In addition to NU students, the faith-sharing session held on campus included students from the following colleges and universities: LaSalle University, St. Joseph's University, Villanova University, Holy Family University, Rosemont College, Penn-Drexel Neumann Center (Penn University and Drexel University), and Gwynedd Mercy University.
Dariana Troilo, a senior exercise physiology major, participated in this synod because she is interested in changes occurring in the church.
"I gained much insight from this event, especially when Archbishop Perez spoke. He touched on the fact that all are welcomed into the church no matter what religion one may practice," she said. "I do feel as though my voice, as well as all of my peers who have helped this process develop, will be represented in the Synod progress. I was grateful to have been given this opportunity to participate as it helped me grow not only as a person but as a Christian as well."
Teni Jehanian, a sophomore education major, attended a synod session last April and wanted to reconnect with the friends she met. She found it very encouraging that student voices were being heard. "I believe that my voice and the voices of my peers are being heard. We are all very passionate, and I have gained a lot of hope for the future."
In an interview last year, Sr. Kathy Dougherty, vice president for mission and ministry, explained the synod's goal, saying it is intended "to strengthen our engagement with one another as a church."
"This is a historic movement to really engage students and parishioners at this level. I can't ever remember this happening before. To engage all of these people in conversation and just hearing one another can be strengthening," she said.