I trust that you have heard the news that our parish family is holding a Synod on the Eve of Pentecost, Saturday, May 22. The word Synod comes from the Greek, meaning to walk or journey together. Our parish Synod will bring together parish leaders and other dedicated members of our parish family, young and old, to have a discussion about what the Lord is wanting from Saint Mary Parish. If you love your parish family, if you are committed to doing the preparation for the Synod by studying documents that will be provided for you, and preparing your answers to questions that will be posed at the Synod ahead of time, you are needed to make our discussion truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Your voice is valuable.
The synodal path has been modeled so beautifully for us by Pope Francis. During the course of his 7-year pontificate, he has hosted four synods, namely, focused on the family in 2014 and 2015, on the role of young people in the church in 2018, and on the special needs of the Church located along the Amazon River in South America in 2019. A synod is a very collaborative model where participants listen to one another – bishops listen to believers and believers listen to bishops and the Pope listens to the people and the people listen to the Pope.
In his address on the 50th anniversary of the notion of synodality (Oct 2015), Pope Francis said, “What the Lord is asking of us already is in some sense present in the very word synod. Journeying together – laity, pastors, the Bishop of Rome – is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice. After stating that the People of God is composed of all the baptized who are called to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, the Second Vatican Council went on to say the whole body of the faithful, who have an anointing which comes from the holy, cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural sense of the faith (sensus fidei) of the whole people of God, when from the bishops to the last of the faithful it manifests a universal consensus in matters of faith and morals…I have emphasized that the people of God is holy thanks to this anointing, which makes it infallible in credendo (in believing)… all the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The sensus fidei prevents a rigid separation between an Ecclesia docens and an Ecclesia discens (a teaching Church and a learning Church), since the flock likewise has an instinctive ability to discern the new ways that the Lord is revealing to the Church.”
Pope Francis’ entire address is worthy of our consideration and will be included in the preparation materials for Parish Synod participants to ponder.
At this moment, the structure of the day looks like this:
- Gathering and continental breakfast
- Opening prayer or Mass invoking the Holy Spirit
- Breakout groups to focus discussion around given questions for the major focus areas of our Parish Mission and Vision Statement. These focus areas are worship, fellowship (notion of parish as a spiritual family), discipleship, ministry and mission. An hour will be provided for each discussion which includes time for each discussion group to report highlights of their discussion to the whole group.
- Prayer preceding each topic for discussion
- Sister Marie Kolbe Zamora, Professor-Emeritus of Theology of Holy Family (Silver Lake) College, Manitowoc, will be our facilitator for the day. Sister brings to the table a deep-seated respect for the teachings of the Church and a wealth of firsthand experience walking with young people who are seekers and searchers.
- A summary of the Synod will be written by me, with input from the Senior Leadership Team and Sister Marie Kolbe. This document will serve as a springboard as we develop concrete action items in each of the five areas. Implementation may take the form of a long-range strategic plan.
This is a preliminary plan as to how the day may unfold. The actual plan is still under construction.
One final thought:
Our discussion will be focused around a pastoral approach. Imitating Jesus, our Good Shepherd, how can we be more loving of every person? How can our parish family be a place of welcome for those who don’t always feel welcome in the Catholic Church? How can we just love without judging? Our discussion may take us in the direction of dogma or church teaching but only in the spirit of receiving participants’ concerns or questions. We will gratefully receive these observations but always in a spirit of respect for the long-standing tradition of the Church.
I propose that we focus primarily on how we accompany people in a spirit of unconditional love. “Ripples of God’s Love, through our Hearts, to all Hearts” will be our motto.
Father Bill +