TRUMBULL—Nearly 350 delegates to Synod 2014 turned to solutions at the Third General Session today when they voted to approve the final pastoral and temporal challenges in the ongoing renewal of the Catholic Church in Fairfield County.
The adoption of the five global challenges followed months of study by Synod delegates, consultative meetings held throughout the diocese and listening sessions with the laity that began last spring. In all, the Diocese received nearly 4000 comments, ideas and suggestions to help the Church make changes and plan for the future. Describing the discernment as “divine chaos,” Bishop Caggiano thanked delegates for their humility and willingness to compromise as they reached consensus on the major challenges facing the church. “The process was a bit messy, but when we approach things in a way that is too neat, clean and organized, we cut out the divine chaos which is the power of grace,” he said.
The Bishop asked the delegates to think of the final challenges as the prism by which they can see the many themes of the Synod. “It is an idea of where we should begin, but we’re not leaving anything behind,” he said. While challenges on Catholic Social Teaching, Stewardship, and Building Faith Communities did not make the final cut, the Bishop assured delegates who worked on the issues that they would be incorporated into the five challenges. Using a digital voting system, the delegates approved the following global challenges for action:
Every Catholic is called to “fully conscious, and active participation” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14) in the worship life of the Church. There is a need to strengthen and support family life and empower and assist parents to be the primary teachers of the Catholic Faith. (Family Life) We must create concrete plans for evangelization in, with and through our parishes, schools, ecclesial movements, and communities. There is a need to continually call, form, and support clergy, religious, and laity in active leadership roles in the life of the Church. (Leadership) We must renew the ministry of faith formation throughout our Diocese, leading each person to a deepening relationship with the Lord Jesus in and through His Church. (Catechesis and Education) The Bishop empowered delegates to now begin researching solutions and best practices to address the many problems such as reaching out to alienated Catholic, inspiring youth, and becoming more welcoming communities of faith.
During the afternoon session, Michael Gecan, National Co-director of Industrial Areas Foundation/CONECT (Connecticut Affiliate), said the Church would benefit from using “organizing “ principles as it seeks renewal. Noting there is an inherent tension between “bureaucratic and relational” models of institutions, he urged the Church to experiment and take risks in order to revitalize its outreach to people. “There has to be some disorganizing if you’re going g to effectively reorganize,” he said. “We’re all for re-organizing but disorganizing can be painful, “ because institutions tend to do things the same way, whether they work or not.
He said one reason that parishes end up with a few leaders doing all the work is because, “We do things any way, even if people don’t want to do it. We don’t listen.” Gecan said vibrant organizations are characterized by strong relationships, a learning environment, and the ability to act effectively on commonly held values.
Mary Ellen O’Driscoll, Regional Director of the Ignatian Volunteer Corp, said Catholics are called to “act on the common good and to see god’s presence in the midst of the poor and suffering. “We should be asking, who is vulnerable here in this diocese, who is on the margin, and who are the people we are not attending to.”
When a delegate noted that many Catholics often are uncomfortable with the Church’s social teachings, O’Driscoll joked that she learned during national elections was not the best time to get agreement. “If we start with political filters then we’ll leave Jesus behind. People will always feel challenged by certain issues. We have to constantly ask, what did Jesus tell us to do and where did he say he would be.”
In a humorous and insightful presentation Msgr. James P. Lang, Episcopal Vicar for Parishes, Diocese of Syracuse, spoke about parish planning, visioning and excellence. “If it’s not working, stop doing it,’ he said, noting, “We need to see things in a new way. “ Msgr. Lang said that as the Church seeks to change, it’s important “not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Engage your tradition and be true to yourself and don’t forget the core values that have guided the Church for over 2,000 years.” Like other speakers, he said the Church needs to be more attentive to small communities, and he said the answers might be found in the most basic things like “banning perfunctory prayer and rediscovering the importance of the Sabbath.”
“We’re human beings, not human doings,” he said, “Life isn’t just about picking up speed like a gerbil on a treadmill. We’re all doing too much, “ he said, noting that many pastors are burned out from working 80 to 100 hours a week. He suggested that one of the biggest challenges for the Synod may be reconciling “historic Catholics” with the emerging new Church of immigrants, youth, and other who were not raised in a Catholic culture, and he called for “reimagining pastoral collaboration.”
For more information visit the Synod 2014 website at www.synod2014.org.