Part 2 of a 2-part series from Bishop Stephen J. Berg
Introduction: As you may know, Pope Francis has called a Synod of Bishops in Rome for October 2023, designated as the Synod on Synodality. The purpose of the synod is to remind the entire Church to walk together on a synodal journey, which involves collaboration at each ecclesial level in seeking and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit in proclaiming the mission of Jesus.
Improved Communications and Responsible Coordination of Efforts
We heard of and examined our difficulties in communications throughout the synodal process. We face challenges in building communion/communication over vast geographical distances, across five culturally disparate deaneries. Our presbyterate is mainly international, from nine different countries, unaccustomed to local traditions of communication. Contextual difficulties such as the political and societal division of the country, fears arising from the pandemic and violence in society, lack of trust in institutions, and the confusion unhappily caused by the media, exacerbate our challenges for communion/communication. People stressed the necessity for clarity in direction from the diocese to maintain focus on the mission of Christ. They asked for more guidance in answering the societal challenges of the times. They stressed the importance of responsible coordination and implementation of efforts across the diocese so that we are all working to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and to bring others into relationship with Him.
Participants frequently spoke about the difficulties of communicating within the parish.
The different committees, ministries and apostolates are often not united around a clarity of purpose or mission. There was a minority-split between people who felt listened to by their priest, parish leadership and/or bishop, and those who did not. A few felt their priest made his decisions on his own with no consultation and against the concerns of parishioners. It was stressed that enhanced communion should be the priority and will be the fruit of improved communications.
"People stressed the necessity for clarity in direction from the diocese to maintain focus on the mission of Christ."
It was affirmed that responsible coordination of efforts, with improved communications, is also essential to building trust and communion. It will be fruitful for these processes to be defined and improved across the diocese.
A Renewal of Formation in Doctrine and the Sacraments
One frequent desire heard throughout the synodal process was the need for a clear and unified approach to catechetical formation. Parish catechists requested training and certification, with opportunities for a more comprehensive grounding in Church doctrine. It was a common theme that adult formation needed to be the priority of the parish, the fruits of which would be the formation of children and youth. Catechists specifically mentioned situations where parents are not engaged, and children are only brought for sacramental preparation.
"It was a common theme that adult formation needed to be the priority of the parish, the fruits of which would be the formation of children and youth."
One deanery has a vibrant Hispanic ministry spread over 135 miles involving four parishes and one mission. It was revealed that there were several formation programs being used with no communication between them, even within parishes, and no direction provided by the diocese. Hispanic leaders stressed their desire for a unified, solid, doctrinal approach to catechesis, particularly for youth.
Synodal participants overall spoke often about the importance and challenges of forming children and young people in the faith, considering the challenges to faith experienced in public schools and colleges. Some parents expressed dismay that their young adult children had fallen away from the faith.
"Hispanic leaders stressed their desire for a unified, solid, doctrinal approach to catechesis, particularly for youth."
Equipping Missionary Disciples
A significant number of comments reflected different understandings of the terms ‘discipleship,’ ‘missionary,’ and ‘missionary discipleship.’ It was seen that their comments reflected different stages of conversion. Some interpreted these terms as physically bringing people to Church, forming them in the faith. Others described their understanding more where they are at and bringing Jesus into the conversation, into the field or the marketplace. There were other interpretations, yet most people expressed that they felt invited into the vision of forming missionary disciples at their parish, however understood.
The diocese has been promoting evangelization and missionary discipleship throughout the past five-year cycle of the existing Strategic Plan. It was affirmed that progress has been made in forming such discipleship. It is, however, evident that many parishioners have yet to be evangelized. We were reminded that forming disciples is a longer process, and the necessary stages of conversion take time. Several participants mentioned a need for evangelical formation to be consistent, from listening to the Holy Spirit to outreach in the form of social justice according to Church teachings. This new outlook may give fresh impetus to calling forth laborers for the harvest.
"We were reminded that forming disciples is a longer process, and the necessary stages of conversion take time."
CONCLUSIONS: NEXT STEPS
As the 2017 Strategic Plan for the Diocese of Pueblo has entered its fifth year, it is time for a renewal of the vision. The call of our Holy Father Pope Francis to greater synodality in the Church provides inspiration, listening source material, and guidance for our diocese to renew our mission in Christ. The main themes and concerns which emerged from the Diocesan Synodal Phase offer a path for improvement over the past, with ideas and opportunities for implementation into the future.
One crucial insight which permeated all phases of the local synodal process was the insight into the need for communion. As The Diocese of The Little Way, we are constantly seeking ways in which we can claim and unite our mission under the humble charism our of patroness, St Therese of Lisieux. Similarly, in little ways all fruits of the synodal process are encompassed in the concept of the need for communion. The opportunity for a True Eucharistic Revival over the next 3 years will be the catalyst which will guide us in our new Strategic Plan, to guide The Diocese of The Little Way into closer communion. Insights from the synodal process will be an important resource in helping me, our clergy, lay leadership and parishioners to share, collaborate, and unite our hearts more closely to Christ in preaching the Good News.
" As The Diocese of The Little Way, we are constantly seeking ways in which we can claim and unite our mission under the humble charism our of patroness, St Therese of Lisieux."
For all of this we shall turn more intentionally and closely in prayer to the Holy Spirit. Our experience in calling upon the Spirit over this past year has been a revelation. To simply bring the faithful together in the Spirit to reflect more openly, and to listen to each other, is itself the beginning of the extension of the mission of the Church. Please stay tuned to the Living Garden electronic newsletter over the next months, as well as The Little Way diocesan magazine. As the plans for our Eucharistic Revival unfold, I call for your prayers and participation. The path to new beginnings is open, and the road to grace lies ahead!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo
To read the full article in its entirety, look for the September issue of the The Little Way magazine. In homes September 9th.
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