The Archdiocesan Synod started in 2019 with dozens of Prayer and Listening Events around the archdiocese. The synod can be understood as an assembly of the diocese to discuss administrative and pastoral priorities and to begin the process of walking together to address several areas of focus that emerge from the meetings. The top priorities that came out of the synod process resulted in the formation of three Focus Areas:
- Forming parishes that are in the service of evangelization. (Small groups)
- Forming missionary disciples who know Jesus’s love and respond to his call. (The Mass)
- Forming youth and young adults in and for a Church that is always young. (Parents as primary faith educators).
THE UPPER ROOM
To understand what this looks like in terms of the function of parishes and the diocese as a whole, Archbishop Hebda uses the image of the Upper Room where Jesus met with his disciples before his Passion, and where they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The three focus areas already mentioned can be aligned with three critical events that happened in that room:
- Jesus washing the feet of the disciples
- Jesus instituting the Eucharist
- Jesus sending his Holy Spirit to live in the hearts of his followers and to support their efforts in spreading the Gospel to the entire world.
To advance these Focus Areas, the letter outlines a three-year plan, in which each area will be addressed. So, starting in July 2023, every parish and organization in the diocese is encouraged to actively work in these areas. Here is what to expect:
- Year 1 (July 2023- June 2024) – Create or grow a small group ministry at every parish that fosters personal relationships, builds community and provides formation to help parishioners grow as joyful missionary disciples of Christ.
- Year 2 (July 2024 – June 2025) – Educate God’s people on the beauty, form and meaning of the Mass, with special emphasis on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Celebrate prayerful liturgies that inspire the faithful to offer their very selves in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass.
- Year 3 (July 2025 – June 2026) – Form and inspire parents to understand and fulfill their responsibility as the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith.
As I look at these priorities, I see that Saint Thomas More is well positioned to embrace them by expanding on what is currently happening at STM. With the emphasis on Ignatian spirituality and small group study, with the beautiful liturgies already in place at STM, and with a strong school with its built in small groups (classrooms), its access to liturgies and with a strong link to parents to provide them with the tools they need to become the primary faith formators of their children, STM is already doing much of what is proposed. Can we do it better? Will it help to have the entire diocese walking together in this direction? Yes and yes.
FUTURE OF HOPE
One final thought I think may be of particular interest at STM comes out of section 56 of the letter, “Plans For a Future of Hope.” Archbishop Hebda states: “For those of you who had been hoping that other priorities would have been discerned and chosen for these first three years, please be assured of a special remembrance in my prayers. I will be asking the Master of the Harvest to bless you with both patience and perseverance rather than discouragement and desolation. As reflected at the Synod Assembly, the needs of our Church are vast. This pastoral letter calls us to take a few important first steps together toward addressing some of those needs. My hope is that our efforts together in the Upper Room will in time give us the common experience and tools that will be necessary for addressing the remaining needs, while remaining docile to the Holy Spirit.”
About Fish Fischer
Fish Fischer joined Saint Thomas More three years ago after being attracted to the warm, engaging spirit of community at our parish. He is in his third year of formation for the diaconate at the Institute for Diaconal Formation at Saint Paul Seminary, with expected ordination in December 2023.
We are always looking for ways to give you, our parishioners, the opportunity to share your experiences! If you would like to submit your story, please email Brennan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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