Called to walk together

Br Ian Cribb SJ reflects on being chosen for a pivotal role at the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to be held in Rome in October.


Last month, the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania named Br Ian Cribb SJ among the Non-Bishop Members of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The theme for this gathering to be held in October this year will be: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”.

The announcement carried the following citation: “Br Ian is an expert in the spiritual conversation method. He guided the discernment process for the synthesis in Oceania, and for the FCBCO Assembly in Suva. He was a key figure in the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia and has also facilitated retreats for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.”

After the announcement, we asked Br Ian for his thoughts on the following topics:

  • What does it mean to be selected? 
  • How will this opportunity give you a chance to express one of the Universal Apostolic Preferences: “Showing the way to God”?
  • What are your goals and / or what are you looking forward to in October?

His deep and thoughtful response carried the title “Called to walk together” and this is what he wrote:

“When Ignatius Loyola set out for Jerusalem he wanted to go alone. He did not want to be dependent on others, for anyone to distract him or hold him back from his dream. However, when he was expelled from Jerusalem, he re-examined his way. He realised that he belonged to a Church and that he needed others around him, and he began to see the importance of accompanying others. This was an important moment of conversion for Saint Ignatius.

Br Ian Cribb SJ speaking at the international meeting of Jesuit brothers in Rome, 2022. Photo: Jeff Pioquinto SJ

“Synodality is at the core of Ignatian spirituality. Pope Frances describes synodality as ‘walking together’. As Jesuits this is what we are called to do, to work with others, to befriend, to accompany and walk with the poor and marginalised. Our ‘walking with’ is to be qualitative, moving forward, doing something that benefits others.

“The Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) are our way of accompanying others, they are a path to conversion of heart. The first UAP, “To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and Discernment”, is at the heart of a Synodal way. Pope Francis is inviting us to understand that it is not just a matter of having a Synod, but of becoming Synodal, to become a discerning Church. Listening to the Holy Spirit is central to the Discernment process of the Synod. However, it will be a challenge to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit among the many diverse voices that will gather in Rome this October. This will mean considering the Sensus fidei as described in Lumen Gentium 2, that sense of faith of the whole people of God.

As a Jesuit, my mission is to respond with generosity to the call of the Pope, to be of service to the Church. It is indeed a privilege to be asked to be part of the facilitation team at the coming Synod on Synodality. I pray I go to the Synod with an open mind and heart, seeking the voice of the Holy Spirit, trusting that the heart of Christ will free me from fears, fill me with hope, humbly lead me in solidarity with the Church, realising that difference is not division, and acknowledging that the cross and suffering in our world are the birthplace of the Kingdom.”