TRUMBULL—Delegates expressed a sense of gratitude, personal transformation and ongoing commitment to the renewal of the diocese at the final post-synod session held at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Trumbull.
More than 100 delegates to Synod 2014 returned to the family center at St. Catherine’s to receive an update on synod initiatives and share personal reflections on their Synod journey.
“We are at a moment of grace after three years of walking together, and the fun is just beginning,” said Bishop Frank Caggiano to start the conversation.
“I am grateful for your journeying with each other and with me for last three years. I hope and pray that you are different because you have walked this journey, and that the Lord has touched you in a way you did not expect,” he said.
In a candid and relaxed conversation with Bishop Caggiano, delegates said that what has impressed them most about the Synod isn’t simply the many new programs and initiatives it has launched, but the spirit of renewal and change underway throughout the Diocese.
“We lit a fire and that fire is continuing to grow,” said one woman delegate. “We’re on the right track.”
“Over the years as a diocese we have talked about many things that never went anywhere,” said another, “but look at all we have accomplished over the past three years.”
In reflecting on the fruits of the synod many delegates took the opportunity to personally thank the bishop for his leadership and praise the spirit of change he has brought to the diocese.
“Your energy and commitment have blessed us in this diocese,” said a delegate.
“For me, the high point of the Synod is the fact that you are bishop,” said another. “You are a man of vision and are not afraid to walk among us. It’s such an honor to have been part of this movement.”
The Bishop was quick to return the compliment, praising delegates who have given almost three years to the planning, discerning and review process.
“You’ve helped to teach me how to be a shepherd,” the Bishop said. “One of my great faults is that I am an impatient man, and I like to get things done as quickly as I can.
“During the Synod I’ve come to learn that it’s in God’s time, not Frank’s time. The Lord has taught me that it’s his Church, not my Church, and that has rekindled a sense of trust in me. We must surrender ourselves and allow him to lead. If we dedicate ourselves to Our Lord and Our Lady, we will find a way forward.”
Many delegates pointed to the Synod Closing Mass, which drew 8000 people to the Webster Bank Arena at harbor Yard in September 2015, as the high point of the Synod process.
“The vision of you coming down to the arena with all those young people following you was a moment of great joy for me. That moment told me that young people are ready to come back and ready for us to reach out to them,” said a delegate.
“Seeing all that energy and people coming together for the Lord and dedicating the diocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary was amazing,” said another.
Other delegates agreed that the listening sessions held throughout the spring of 2014 were a memorable and moving moment that set the tone of honest searching and open dialogue that characterized the Synod.
“So many people spoke so honestly and from the heart, and they had so much hope,” said a delegate. “Sometimes I wonder if the people who came out to those sessions are aware of all that has happened. Do they we have addressed things and made connections with many of their concerns?”
During the three-hour morning session that culminated in an 11 am Mass in St. Catherine Church, Patrick Turner, Synod Director who now serves the diocese as Director of Strategic and Pastoral Planning, updated delegates on the implementation Synod recommendations including the development of the Leadership Institute, the Catholic Service Corp, ongoing pastoral and parish planning, and the recent reorganization into a new deanery structure.
“We prayed together, ate together, and shared our faith journeys. Out of that we put forward a Mission Statement and a series of principles that have underpinned our work and established priorities for our parishes,” said Turner who thanks delegates for their commitment.
“This does not mean that our work is done and we can sit back and bask in the glow of a job well done. In fact, as we have seen, our work is just beginning. In the words of the Romero prayer written by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, we are planting the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.,” he said.
Bishop Caggiano praised Turner’s leadership during the Synod and the follow-up sessions. The delegates also recognized his effort by giving him a standing ovation at the end of the meeting.
During the morning delegates also heard from Patrick Donovan, director of the diocesan Leadership Institute, which was one of the major recommendations of Synod delegates.
Donovan shared a printed report of the Catechetical Task Force Findings & Recommendations. He said diocese is working to totally renew how young people are introduced to the faith and how to accompany people of all ages on their faith journey across a lifetime.
“These are proven best practices,” he said of the report summary that included recommendations for improving catechesis. Donovan said that 48 parishes prioritized catechesis and religious education in their pastoral planning process.
“The goal is that every parish takes the challenge for lifelong formation,” Donovan said. “There are people watching from all over the country, just like they watched the synod. They want to see how it’s done, how to re-imagine faith formation.”
Patrick Turner officially closed the meeting by thanking delegates and remembering three who have passed away.
“Your participation, your enthusiasm, your discernment, and your prayers have started something here that will leave a lasting legacy. You have been an incredible support to me. Some of our delegates have started college, graduated college, and moved to new opportunities. In a special way, I want to remember three women who began this journey with us and who unfortunately have passed away. Linda DeMarkey, Madelyn Ghilardi, and Jackie Reck.”
After the meeting the delegates and Bishop Caggiano joined Fr. Joseph Marcello and the St. Catherine of Siena Parishioners for a Mass celebrating the Solemnity of Saint Catherine of Siena.
Pictures by Amy Mortensen