© HLI, Saint Michael Chapel, Human Life International, Front Royal, VA, USA, Henry Wingate
Answering the call of Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to the Synod on Synodality, the faithful of the Diocese of Pueblo participated to help prepare for the 2023 General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops by engaging in the diocesan synodal process. For nine months, people from all over the diocese participated in surveys, preparation meetings, parish visitations, and a diocesan convocation. From this time of prayerful and wholehearted discussions, a desire for and commitment to a new five-year vision for evangelization and the development of a new Strategic Plan was affirmed in faithfulness to the Lord, for our local Church.
We began the Diocesan Synodal Process while struggling through the Covid pandemic. It was a welcome relief to begin at a time when parishioners appreciated hearing the concerns of the Holy Father and could reflect on their personal faith lives, the workings of their parishes, and hopes for the Church.
"For nine months, people from all over the diocese participated in surveys, preparation meetings, parish visitations, and a diocesan convocation."
Quickly following the October 17 Mass inaugurating the synodal process, the electronic survey was posted on the website to be sent multiple times over six months to thousands of households, via the Living Garden electronic newsletter and The Little Way magazine.
In November, Fr Derrek Scott and I began conducting on-site parish and deanery visitation/listening sessions, working with clergy and parish staff, utilizing either a town hall format or more intimate sessions of parish leadership and interested parties. More than 350 people participated in 14 on-site sessions.
"More than 350 people participated in 14 on-site sessions."
At that time the most urgent questions in the parishes were simple: How to get our people back to Mass? How will we regain financial stability? How can we gather our youth? How will we be able to renew our parish? Amidst these questions, the experience of synodal listening and sharing was new to all of us. As the parish visitations progressed, with practice, a rhythm of listening and spontaneity through prayer and the Holy Spirit began to take place.
There were unexpected surprises. On one announced visit to a university campus ministry site, we found several students in prayerful activity. As several more arrived, an impromptu listening session took place. In another instance, a scheduled session for Hispanic leadership in Grand Junction was miscommunicated. After a last-minute call, not only leadership but fifty enthusiastic parishioners, with children, showed up from as far away as Gunnison for an intense and lively listening session. At other times on the parish tour, parishioners gathered after Mass with us to participate in a brief session. We visited two of our Catholic schools and two of our hospitals. The spirit of being with Jesus on mission was alive and felt on The Way.
"As the parish visitations progressed, with practice, a rhythm of listening and spontaneity through prayer and the Holy Spirit began to take place."
The electronic survey results were fruitful in a different way. The anonymity of the survey and the opportunity to reflect in essay form allowed the respondents to share deeper feelings, concerns, and experiences. The questions were posed around the topics of Listening, Conversion, Communion, Prayer, and Discipleship, with sub-questions designed to invite a thoughtful reflection. There were more than 500 responses, including some from 4 of our prisons, crucial for our synodal process in determining the underlying dynamics in people’s faith lives, their relationships with God, and their concerns and hopes for the Church.
The diocesan-wide May Convocation, Speak, Lord: Your Servant Is Listening, was the culminating experience of the synodal process. 170 parish representatives from parishes across the diocese gathered in a beautiful mountain setting outside Westcliffe, where three days were given to prayerful discernment. The hunger for communion and fellowship was renewed. Paraphrasing Pope Francis’ promotion of “a culture of accompaniment,” it was realized that the Church must first cultivate “a culture of accompaniment in the Holy Spirit.” From the question, “How may the Holy Spirit be guiding us as The Diocese of The Little Way into closer communion with each other?” we recognized the need for the renewal of the diocese in the Holy Spirit, for a True Eucharistic Revival, and for a new five-year Strategic Plan.
"...we recognized the need for the renewal of the diocese in the Holy Spirit, for a True Eucharistic Revival, and for a new five-year Strategic Plan."
In all phases of the synodal process, people stressed the need for clarity in direction to maintain focus on the mission of Christ, with responsible coordination of efforts in developing the next phase of our mission. I am now in consultation with diocesan leadership as to how the fruits of the past year may be gathered and synthesized into that new vision of Communion through a True Eucharistic Revival. A committee has been formed to assist me. We are planning a document to not only memorialize the process, but to provide guidance for our future.
I invite you to follow our progress with updates in the Living Garden and The Little Way in the weeks to come. More reflections are to be shared. The themes of Listening, Conversion, Communion, Prayer, and Discipleship will be further explored. In gratitude to those who have helped to begin this process, and those called to labor in the vineyard of the Lord, we turn wholeheartedly in prayer to the Holy Spirit. That our Diocese of The Little Way be renewed, in confidence and communion!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo
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