Abp. Aymond: Synod in God's hands
In officially opening the 9th General Synod of the Archdiocese of New Orleans at the April 15 Chrism Mass, Archbishop Gregory Aymond offered Catholics packed inside St. Louis Cathedral an overview of the 14-month process of discernment and prayer but said the final outcome truly is in God's hands.
"We open this 9th General Synod in order to pray together, to dialogue together and to reflect together that we may more fully come to know God's plans and his priorities for us over the next several years," Archbishop Aymond said. "Notice, I said God's plans and his priorities – not mine, not ours.
"We truly believe that through prayer and dialogue, through reflection and the guidance of the Spirit, we will come to know through this synodal process God's plans and priorities for us in order to more strongly build up his kingdom among us."
The annual Chrism Mass is a Holy Week liturgy during which sacred oils used in the sacramental life of the church in the coming year are blessed for distribution to parishes. About 150 priests from throughout the archdiocese participated in the Mass, renewing their commitment to priestly service, which they first made at ordination.
Archbishop Aymond used the occasion to launch the synod, which he described as a gathering of the people of God in the archdiocese to discern God's priorities and vision for ministry over the next several years. The last synod conducted by the archdiocese was completed in 1987.
After Communion, two student artists from St. Mary's Dominican High School, Kristin Selle and Stephanie Clavin, processed from the sacristy with a colorful, hand-drawn document proclaiming the opening of the synod, and they placed it on an easel in front of the altar.
Archbishop Aymond signed the scroll first, and he was followed by the five members of the Synod Steering Committee and the 12 members of the Synod Leadership Team, whose job will be to consolidate and synthesize feedback elicited from 16 consultative sessions that will be held across the archdiocese from May 28 through the end of August.
The scroll will remain inside the cathedral until the synod process is completed on Pentecost Sunday, May 24, 2015.
Archbishop Aymond said the synod comes at an important time in archdiocesan history. New Orleans is the second-oldest diocese in the United States, having been established in 1793, four years after Baltimore was created as the first American diocese. Since the last synod was convened 27 years ago, it was important for the local church to pause and evaluate its priorities and ministry, Archbishop Aymond said.
"Every once in awhile, it's very important that we as a diocesan family pause and look at what we are doing to give thanks to God for what we are accomplishing in his name," Archbishop Aymond said before signing the scroll. "It's also important that we ask the questions: how can we foster God's kingdom among us? What is it that we're not doing that we could do. That is the purpose of a synod – that we come together as clergy, religious and laity, the young church, the young adult church, all ethnic groups as one family, and we pray and have conversations. And then we reflect, asking the guidance of the Holy Spirit upon us and upon the work that we are doing and are willing to do."
"Through this synod process we will identify ways in which we are effectively fulfilling the ministry of Jesus," Archbishop Aymond added. "We will identify ways in which we could do it better. And, we will also ask that all-important question: What are we not doing that God is calling us to do to truly make a difference?"
The archbishop urged Catholics to attend and give feedback at the upcoming consultative sessions. There are sessions scheduled in each of the
10 deaneries (geographic areas) of the archdiocese, as well as sessions for youth, young adults, priests, deacons and religious (men and women). There will also be one session in Spanish.
"I invite all of us to participate in the synod, first of all, by prayer," Archbishop Aymond said, "and by participating in the various consulting sessions. Through those consultative sessions we will gain the knowledge of God's people."
The five members of the Synod Steering Committee are Sisters of Mount Carmel Beth Fitzpatrick and Mary Ellen Wheelahan, Father Patrick Williams (vicar general), Louann Hood and Paul Breaux, a leadership consultant with the Catholic Leadership Institute.
The 12 members of the Synod Leadership Team are Kurt Bindewald, Loyola University; Maria E. Castillo, St. Martha Parish, Harvey; Msgr. Earl Gauthreaux, pastor, St. Maria Goretti; Claire Gallagher, coordinator of religious education and youth ministry, St. Clement of Rome Parish, Metairie; Marianite Sister Judy Gomila, teacher and missionary; Deacon Larry Oney, assigned to St. Louis Cathedral and Our Lady of Grace, Reserve;
Deacon Timothy Hedrick, who will be ordained to the priesthood in June; Lynne Pesce, mother of three, St. Clement of Rome Parish; Father John Nhan Tran, pastor, St. Joan of Arc, LaPlace; Father Colin Braud, parochial vicar, St. Margaret Mary Parish, Slidell; Dr. Dereck Rovaris, St. Peter Claver Parish, New Orleans; and Shirley Judge, St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish, New Orleans.