Bishop Hying

Synod is work of Holy Spirit, but also requires human response to put it into actions

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on June 4, 2017


       This weekend is a transformational moment for our diocese as we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost and our first synod.

       Everyone was welcomed at our Opening Mass on June 2 at Notre Dame parish in Michigan City.  Over 300 delegates representing our parishes, schools, hospitals, priests, deacons, religious, lay ecclesial ministers and lay faithful will pray, converse and discern our common pastoral priorities on June 3.  Please pray for them in this important process. 

       On Sunday, June 4, everyone is invited to a joyful, Spirit-filled Commissioning Mass at the Genesis Center in Gary at 2 p.m.  Following the Eucharist, we will process to Holy Angels Cathedral with the Blessed Sacrament and there close with Benediction.  Please join us for this Mass, as we ask the Holy Spirit to anoint, inspire and send us to proclaim the Gospel and grow the life of our local Church.

       I profoundly thank Deacon Bob Marben, Deacon Tom Gryzbek  and the members of the Synod Commission who have worked very hard to lead us through this spiritual process; the dedicated staff at the Pastoral Center who have worked out a million details and accomplished numerous tasks; Father Marty Dobrzynski and the Worship Office who helped plan the liturgies; our priests, deacons, religious and laity who have worked hard to animate the participation of our people in the process; the hundreds of volunteers who have helped in a myriad of ways, the synod delegates who will be praying and sharing their wisdom on Saturday; our benefactors who have generously donated to help cover the costs; and anyone else who I have missed in mentioning here.

       Pentecost marks the birth of the Church, the sending of the Holy Spirit, the initial proclamation of the Gospel. While we rightfully focus on God’s initiative and power in this dynamic experience, we can also reflect on the role, decisions and actions of those first followers of Jesus. 

       While he was indeed compelled by the Holy Spirit to open the door of the Upper Room and preach the kerygma - the crucified and risen Jesus as Lord - Peter still chose to courageously and boldly act in this way. His Pentecost proclamation is a diametric opposite of his fear, denial and absence during Christ’s Passion.

       The decision of the early Christian community to publicly give witness to the Gospel, to pray openly in the Temple, to hold all material things in common, to heal the sick, paralyzed and blind out in the streets, led to both a dynamically effective evangelization and remarkably rapid numerical growth, on the one hand, and angrily violent condemnation and even harsh prison sentences on the other. 

       Only because those first followers of Jesus went public, risked their reputations and lives, embraced the Gospel in such a generous and heroic manner, did the Church grow so quickly and widely. Pentecost was God’s action but it required a human response.

       Yes, our diocesan synod is the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst, but it also requires a human response from us to put it into action. How we pray in community, proclaim the Gospel, assist the poor, work for a more just social and economic order, form our children and young people in the faith and grow in our spiritual lives will determine the effectiveness of the synod’s implementation. 

       I promise you that the pastoral initiatives which emerge from this process will not sit on a shelf, but rather form and inspire us on the level of the diocese, our parishes and our individual discipleship. These priorities, which have percolated up from the base of our parish discussions last October, will change how we live the faith in our parishes, how we work at the Pastoral Center, how we communicate within our local Church, how our communities will continue to grow their strengths and address their deficits and determine what challenges to which we give our energies.

       We should not view the synod as “just another diocesan program - to think thus would be akin to saying, “Pentecost was just another event in the life of the Church.”

       Our vision is not to create some mammoth plan that will be imposed on everyone in a uniform sort of way, but rather, but rather to offer a variety of priorities, plans and objectives which each parish and institution will adapt to their local reality and make their own, building on what they already do well and addressing needs that are still unmet. 

       Everyone cannot do everything, but all communities can do something to grow the faith in their circles of discipleship. The synod asks all of us to commit ourselves more deeply to the mission of Christ and the growth of the Church in service to everyone.

       Pentecost happened, not only because the Holy Spirit blew in the door and fired up the Apostles, but also because those first Christians made a choice to respond. Grace builds on nature as our humble attempts to live the Gospel mediate the presence and mission of Jesus Christ. 

       Those first followers of the Lord could have quietly gone about their business, prayed to Jesus in private, avoided preaching and healing in public, and so evaded controversy and persecution - an easier life, perhaps, but not a Gospel existence, living Christianity on their comfortable terms, but not fulfilling the will of God. 

       So too, we can just keep living the faith in a routine sort of way, doing the same things and hoping for different results, never risking embarrassing failure, but, as a result, never reaching for a glorious future of dynamic growth here in the Diocese of Gary. Or, we can boldly step out in trust, joy and confidence, knowing that the Holy Spirit is with us and we cannot lose, if we give our all for Christ! 

       This Synod is our Pentecost moment!  Come Holy Spirit!


       + Donald J. Hying


Follow us on Facebook for continual synod updates starting June 2. Full coverage will appear in the June 18 edition of the Northwest Indiana Catholic.

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