GMercyU Alumna Attended Global Synod in Rome

Alyssa Van Allen ’23 attended a synod in Rome in fall 2023. The event stemmed from Pope Francis calling for a synod back in 2021 to gather Church leadership and the whole people of God, including lay women, men, and vowed religious to talk about a particular topic. Specifically, Pope Francis wanted to focus on what it means for the Catholic church to be a church “in the third millennium.” (direct quote from the Pope)

Global Synod RomeJeff Wallace, Director of Spirituality and Justice; Jim Gallo, VP of Mission, Planning, and Effectiveness; and Deborah Schadler answered a call from colleagues from other universities in the Archdiocese to be trained in how to host synodal conversations with students on campus. Since then, Jeff, Jim, Deborah, and their colleagues on campuses across the Archdiocese have worked together to create a report on the topics discussed to send to the Vatican.

One of the first students on GMercyU’s campus to become involved in the project was Alyssa.

“The Synod spoke to her and it really felt like she found a lot of life in it,” shared Jeff. “So, she took on a lot of leadership within our little group that formed called Synodality in Catholic Higher Education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (SCHEAP).”

While a student, Alyssa attended two of GMercyU’s synodal listening sessions and two cross-campus SCHEAP synodal listening sessions at Neumann University and LaSalle University. At these events, Alyssa met members of a group called Discerning Deacons (DD) who support the active discernment about women and the diaconate. Leaders of DD reached out to Alyssa and other student leaders regarding a young adult pilgrimage to Rome to participate in supporting the Synod on Synodality.

Why Get Involved?

“My main reason for getting involved was to represent Catholics with an experience similar to mine in the church. As someone who holds the identities of both Catholic and LBGT+, we are often unheard of due to fear of homophobia and the resultant discrimination, judgment, and more. It is a complex experience that I think is important for our Catholic brothers and sisters to hear and walk together in faith with,” shared Alyssa.

When in Rome

While in Rome, Alyssa met other young adults inspired by the subject. Each morning, they started the day with a group prayer then head out to meet with people from various Catholic organizations and the church. Conversations involved sharing testimonies and creating friendships for life. They also prayed over Synod delegates, including SCHEAP student leader (and voting synod member) Julia Oseka, James Martin, Bishop Robert Barron, and more.

Rome Global SynodThey’d end each day with group dinner and time for a nightly prayer and reflection. Attendees would also journal and sketch parts of the day, including 7 things they saw, 1 thing they heard, and 7 things they learned.

“My experience in Rome was something I will remember forever. Every day was packed with adventure, stunning churches, architecture, prayer, powerful and personal testimonies, meditation, delicious pasta and gelato, art, history, smiles, laughs, hope, and so much fun,” Alyssa shared.

On October 3, attendees traveled to Assisi for St. Francis’ Feast Day where they walked the streets where he and St. Clare walked. They prayed at basilicas and shrines devoted to Assisi’s saints and experience first-hand the type of peace that they felt while living there.

“The young adult pilgrimage to Rome was unforgettable for us as a delegation and was certainly impactful to those who we met along the way,” said Alyssa. “I’m truly grateful for the experience and for all those who supported us along the way.