In each of the parishes in which I was pastor, I found it really helpful to get insights from the faithful so I could listen to their hearts and experiences and then pray and discern how to best lead the flock to holiness and heaven. We will be doing something similar as a diocese over the next year in response to an invitation to every diocese from Pope Francis to help prepare for the next synod (a meeting of a group of bishops with the pope) in 2023. While I don’t know the outcome of the pope’s worldwide synod process, I do hope our diocesan process will help me serve you on our way to holiness.
Most importantly, we must pray that we follow the movements of the Holy Spirit in our authentic sharings, so it is the Holy Spirit who speaks through us rather than ourselves. This matters because the Church is God’s Church, and his revealed plan of salvation has already been so clearly provided for us. If everyone truly lets the Holy Spirit lead us, we will all be united more deeply into the loving plan of God.
1. Here is a summary of the pope’s synod process adapted to our diocese:
- Every diocese in the world is invited by our Holy Father to conduct a broad conversation around this proposal:
- The Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together.”
- How is this “journeying together” happening today in our diocese?
2. What steps does the Spirit invite us to take to grow in journeying together.
3. The pope’s desire is to engage as many people as possible, inviting them to reflect on this important question together as beloved children of our heavenly Father.
- I see the providence of God in this request from Pope Francis to help us focus as a diocese to build a culture of Lifelong Catholic Missionary Discipleship Through God’s Love. To do so, we need to grow in the habit of having intentional and prayerful conversations as families, parishes, schools, Catholic organizations and communities that focus on:
- Opportunities and helps to grow in our personal relationship with God.
- How we can benefit more from our amazing Catholic heritage through Scripture, regular and fruitful celebration of the sacraments, the witness and wisdom of the saints, and the teaching of Christ through the Church.
- Recognizing the gifts God has give to us individually and as a community.
- The ways we can serve people in the Church and beyond the Church with these gifts to help each one take another step closer to Christ and his Church by encountering God’s love more deeply, frequently and fruitfully.
We have all experienced various levels of isolation because of the COVID pandemic. But the Church in her essence is a family—the spiritual family of God, and we are brothers and sisters in Christ, beloved sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. Pope Francis is asking us to reflect together on how we can live the reality of being a parish and diocesan family more deeply, more truly, more beautifully and more fruitfully
4. The basic task of our diocesan participation in the worldwide synod is simply to gather together in our local communities with as many people as possible and ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with his love and give us wisdom, understanding and right judgment. As we go through the process, we will prayerfully reflect and visit with one another about how best to grow together as a spiritual family, the family of God in our homes, our parishes, our communities and as a diocese.
You will be hearing a lot more on the synod in the coming months. During Advent, we will be letting you know more details of how you and your family and friends can participate in this process. Today I simply ask you to join me in prayer for the blessings and inspiration of the Holy Spirit as we begin preparations for our diocese’s contribution to the worldwide synod.