Whether the agenda calls for small groups or full-group listening sessions, called general congregations, the mid-morning coffee interlude is always much appreciated, the priest said.
“Everyone [moves] toward the coffee and while we’re in line, or after getting coffee, conversations just happen,” he said, “sometimes about what was discussed but sometimes just about ourselves, about our weekends, about our ministries.”
Montelongo, who was ordained in 2020, is judicial vicar and vocation director for the El Paso Diocese. While he was born in California, he spent his childhood in Mexico until age 15, when he moved to Texas with his family.
The synod assembly takes its lunch break from 12:30-4 p.m., during which time the U.S. delegates return to the North American College to eat and partake in “the beautiful tradition of siesta time.”
Montelongo said he will also use the break to catch up on some work or emails from back home.
A bus leaves to take the delegates back to the Vatican at 3:30 p.m. The synod assembly works from 4 to around 7:15 p.m., when they return to the NAC for dinner.
After dinner, “sometimes there’s work to do from the synod,” he said. For example, those chosen as “rapporteur” of their table have to prepare what they will say on behalf of their group in a general congregation. People can also prepare remarks if they would like to speak during the time of “free” speeches.
Then Montelongo says his night prayers and goes to bed.
On Saturday, Oct. 14, synod delegates had a break from meetings in the afternoon. The young priest said he used that time to “recuperate” and to do some work and laundry. “Those normal things,” he explained with a smile. The schedule “takes a toll.”
The following Sunday, a day of “vacation” for the Synod on Synodality, Montelongo went to Mass in St. Peter’s Square and then visited the Jewish neighborhood of Rome with some friends for lunch.
Another U.S. delegate, 19-year-old Wyatt Olivas, is in Rome for the first time, so he said they are trying to show him around, “but it’s hard to find those times.”
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“It’s bittersweet,” he said, as the synod passed the halfway mark. “I’m having a good time, but work is pending back in the diocese.”
“I truly believe that this is very important, so I’m so thankful for being here and for participating in this historic moment in the Church. I’m also ready to go back home and even take all this richness that I’ve seen here back with me.”
Montelongo also said he’s already thinking about getting “ready for the next one,” the second session of the assembly, which will take place during the month of October 2024.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said.