Updates given on Ninth General Synod
Can you update us on how the implementation process is going regarding the five priorities and 21 goals for future ministry in the archdiocese, which were the outgrowth of the Ninth General Synod?
I’m very pleased that we’re making excellent headway in implementing the plan. First of all, I want to offer my sincere thanks to pastors and their parish staffs. We asked each pastor to appoint a parishioner to serve as an internal synod implementation coordinator, and as of last week, 106 of the 110 parishes have identified that person. This is really important because that coordinator will be working with the pastor and the pastoral council to implement the priorities and goals in each parish. I’ve always said the synod document will be strongest if it is embraced and implemented in every parish, and we are well on our way to doing that. We want the synod to take root in each parish and not to be just a flash in the pan. We want this to spark parish renewal, particularly in the areas of marriage and family life, vocations and the social teaching of the church. If each parish embraces it, this could really be a game changer because it will strengthen the inspiring ministry already being done in Catholic schools and parish schools of religion, and it will enhance the sacramental life of the parish.
What’s going on in the parishes right now?
We’ve asked each parish to complete a self-assessment. This will give each parish a snapshot of where it is right now. What is the parish doing well? What could it be doing better? The reason we want to establish a baseline is that each parish will then be able to determine how it will move ahead with implementing the synod’s broader priorities and goals. If a parish already has a very strong vocations or family life committee, maybe it can begin to look at areas where it might need to devote more prayer, time and energy. This really is the principle of subsidiarity at work. The synod document is not a one-size-fits-all plan. Each parish can use the synod document as a roadmap that will help it get from Point A to Point B in the best way possible. But in order to do that, each parish has to look at what it’s doing well and what it needs to improve.
Are there a few specific things that you are asking parishes to do?
In addition to appointing a coordinator and doing the self-assessment, we may be asking each parish, if it does not already have these, to discuss establishing standing committees for marriage and family life, vocations and social justice. The idea is that those committees will be able to assist the pastor in fulfilling these ministry goals. I know how busy people are these days, particularly pastors and parish secretaries. Just having another point person in those ministry areas will make it easier for the archdiocese to share information about upcoming programs and promote ministry in that area. It won’t fall on just one person to carry the load. Some of these ideas are not glamorous or revolutionary, but if they are truly embraced, this will enhance the current ministry in each parish, and that will be a real blessing.
What are some of the next steps?
The archdiocesan Ministerial Council, which includes the directors of major offices and ministries, has already met to discuss nine of the 21 goals and make specific suggestions on how they can be implemented. The Ministerial Council will have two more meetings to discuss the remaining goals, which will help give parishes a little more direction in how to implement them. There are things right now that each parish could be doing to implement the synod, and that starts with the self-assessment each parish is doing. This is a very exciting time. We’re talking about creating parishes where people feel embraced and welcomed, maybe from the time parishioners arrive in the parking lot. We’re talking about having greater catechesis regarding the sacrament of confession and making confession more available. We’ve talked about getting young adults more involved in the pastoral decisions of a parish, as well as helping families grow in holiness. We are moving ahead, and the Holy Spirit is leading us.