Continuing work of the diocesan synod continues as we celebrate first year anniversary of its start

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on May 20, 2018

 

      The Solemnity of Pentecost will liturgically mark the first anniversary of our diocesan synod.  Last year, hundreds of delegates gathered to pray, reflect, discern and vote on pastoral priorities that would serve to inspire and shape the future of our local Church. Thousands gathered for our beautiful Mass that weekend, followed by a Eucharistic procession to the cathedral. Much has happened since then.

      Last September, I issued a pastoral letter formally endorsing the pastoral priorities of the synod and articulating my hopes for its fruitful implementation. Rather than asking all of our leaders and parishes to adopt a uniform plan, I asked each parish to create their own synod plan, choosing some of the priorities from the diocese, after discerning respective strengths, challenges and deficits in the local community.           

      Some of the diocesan department heads and several permanent deacons received training to facilitate planning sessions with pastors and their teams. Through a steady series of meetings last autumn and winter, these local plans took shape with priorities, objectives, strategies, resources and leaders defined. I can gratefully say that every parish in the diocese has either turned in their plan, or at least a draft of it.  This success is only possible because of the commitment, dedication and generosity of our pastors, parish leaders and diocesan staff.

      To mark this milestone, we are holding a prayer service at the cathedral this Sunday, May 20, during which a representative from each parish will ceremonially present a copy of their plan as we ask the Holy Spirit to breathe a fresh effusion of grace and inspiration on all of us, as we boldly set forth on this spiritual path of ecclesial renewal.  Everyone is invited to pray with us at this service; I especially invite our priests, deacons, religious, lay ministers and the lay faithful who helped develop the parish plans.  There is much to be grateful for.

      This summer, I will be meeting with the parish planning teams in their respective groups and with their diocesan consultants to affirm the great work that has been accomplished, answer any questions, and seek any clarifications about the parish plans that I may need. These encounters will allow me to thank everyone for their generous dedication and love for the Church. After that, we begin the next phase of implementing and realizing the vision we have embraced.

      Every parish will be working on evangelization, seeking to engage the many baptized Catholics who are not active members of the community, forming our active parishioners to embrace a deeper discipleship, and helping all of us to share our faith with both confidence and competence.  

      Many parishes will be developing ways to engage our young people with greater effectiveness and attention to their needs and questions. Some will be building a solid pastoral council, while others will be trying to cultivate a more efficacious spirit of stewardship in the parish.  

      This beautiful variety of initiatives is truly the work of the Holy Spirit! Already, from the plans I have read and anecdotes I have heard, the synod is bearing fruit, often in unexpected and beautiful ways.  

      On the diocesan level, we will be reconstituting a Diocesan Pastoral Council to forge stronger communication and partnership between the individual parishes and the diocese. Our eight think tanks, which have been compiling compile resources for our parishes to use in their synodal implementation, will segue into standing diocesan commissions.  

      We also need to discern how the resources of the diocese can better serve our parishes in order to flourish and grow into the future.  I will be planning visits to our parishes in 2019 to encourage and affirm the good work that is happening.

      This whole process may seem long and arduous, but the goal is an organic, sustained and integral growth of the Catholic faith in our diocese. The synod is not simply another program, the cause of the year, or another beautifully-written plan to be shelved and forgotten. Rather, it represents a sustained effort on the part of our leaders and people to be visionary and strategic in our desire to fully live out the implications of the Gospel, specifically the Great Commission: Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature!

      As we celebrate Pentecost, we ask the Holy Spirit to continue to work in all of us, to renew our hearts in a transformative love for Jesus Christ, a deepened passion to live and express our faith and to strategically strengthen our structures, organizations and events to more efficaciously do what God has asked the Church to do for 2,000 years, that is, to put the Lord at the center of your life, live the Scriptures and the sacraments, deepen your prayer life and witness Jesus Christ to others.  

      For all of you, I give praise and thanks to God the Father in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost blessings!

 

       + Donald J. Hying