Catholic leaders from western Oregon are meeting Jan. 20 to learn how the Archdiocese of Portland will continue to participate in the Synod on Synodality called by Pope Francis.

The official name of the process — “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” — indicates the pope’s goal: getting more Catholics involved in the mission of the church.

Catholics from around the world will convene at the Vatican in 2023 to discuss how members of the church can better listen to one another and improve the way the church carries out its mission. But first, Catholics at the parish and diocesan level will hold meetings on the topic. In western Oregon, parish gatherings are set for February and March. Regional meetings come in April and May.

Discernment on the archdiocesan level is set for June, with a report going off to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in July.

The Jan. 20 online meeting is bringing together western Oregon pastors, pastoral council chairpersons, religious superiors, apostolate directors, and other Catholic leaders. The archdiocese’s Synod Steering Committee is providing the essential framework as well as tools meant to simplify participation in the synod.

Parishes and other groups are asked to appoint a synod coordinator.

Prayer has been a part of the synod process since the summer, with parishes praying for its success.

The word synod means walking together, Archbishop Alexander Sample said Oct. 26 during an episode of “Voice of the Shepherd,” his show on Mater Dei Radio. The archbishop explained that a synod is not a parliament in which people will vote to change teachings or disciplines of the church, but rather a time when the whole church seeks God’s will to pursue better pathways to fulfilling its mission in the modern world.

In the past, synods have tended to include bishop delegates from nations. Pope Francis wants more kinds of Catholics involved, the archbishop explained.

“What the Holy Father wants is that we walk together through this whole process,” Archbishop Sample said. “How can we encourage the participation of more people, including laity, and how do we form those missionary disciples Pope Francis keeps talking about?”

What worked in the past is not working now, the archbishop said. He hopes the synodal process will reveal fruitful pathways.