The last of four regional synod listening sessions on May 14 concluded the local public process for the 2021-2023 synod with echoes of concerns raised elsewhere in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. Recurring themes included the need for a welcoming church, with parishioners who better understand the teachings of the church in order to evangelize effectively, especially to young people and those whose communities have long been marginalized in society and society. ‘Church.
Group after group among the hundred participants, they mentioned the need to listen to each other better and to provide the different types of support needed in parishes and communities that are diverse in terms of age, race, culture and background. ‘experience.
In his homily at the closing Mass of the Synod, which followed the afternoon listening session, Cardinal Wilton Gregory addressed these themes, focusing on Christ’s command to “love one others” and the challenges this poses. “None of us ever reaches the pinnacle of Jesus’ command,” the cardinal said. “However, none of us can ever be satisfied with a lesser expression of this commandment. It is in the struggle, it is in the attempt, it is in the effort that one attains holiness.
The regional session for parishes in the District of Columbia also included representatives from a handful of Maryland parishes, several religious orders, and Catholic high schools. It was held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in southeast Washington. As in previous regional listening sessions, parish and community representatives were expected to report on concerns raised in local listening sessions. Delegates were spread around the room at tables with designated note takers and reporters who brought key points from the table discussions to the entire gathering.
“Someone brought up the fact that shepherds need to know the sheep to guide the Church,” said one group reporter, after saying, “we want to participate in the life of the parish. We want training. We want support.
“So we want to ask all of our shepherds, at all levels, are you really listening to everyone and are you really listening to the Holy Spirit?” she concludes.
Another group’s reporter said, “Both at the local parish level and at the archdiocesan level, we need to see this as an opportunity to groom and nurture emerging organizational leaders within the organization. parish”.
Repeatedly, participants said that the structure of the listening sessions was greatly appreciated, as people too often feel that no one in the Church takes the time to hear their concerns.
Cardinal Gregory sat down with a few different focus groups during the listening session.
Reporting for one of those tables, Carolina Herrera, a senior from Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Maryland, said a main topic for that group was how to bring people back to or into the Church.
“Sometimes people walk away. Some people are afraid of confrontation,” she said. Herrera later admitted he was quite nervous speaking for a table full of adults that included the cardinal. She was one of half a dozen students representing Seton High and the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, and another dozen attendees came from male and female religious orders.
Dr. Jeannine Marino, archdiocesan secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns and one of two archdiocesan contacts for the global synod, said she and her staff would begin work to take 1,000 individual surveys, 106 parish reports and feedback from regional sessions and compile a 10-page report for submission to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Concluding the program with a summary of the listening sessions, she said one of the highlights was the appreciation of both listening to others and being “heard”.
“You felt that this process highlighted the diversity of our parishes and not just the ethnic diversity – the diversity of ages, socio-economic backgrounds, traditions and liturgical practices. It was absolutely evident in the other three listening sessions,” she said.
She mentioned repeatedly hearing “a concern for catechesis and the need for evangelization…. We have to invite people to come back. COVID was difficult. There’s been a lot of loss during COVID – loss of life, a sense of community – and we really need to take the next step of inviting people back.
Continuous listening sessions, civil dialogue, “and the fact that the Holy Spirit calls us to accompaniment and to encounter”, were also frequently mentioned that day and in other sessions, said Marina.
A theme raised repeatedly during the May 14 session was the appreciation of the availability of the Traditional Latin Mass in the churches of the Archdiocese and the concern that the Traditional Latin Liturgy might become unavailable.
Pope Francis in a July 2021 decree, Traditional Custodians, limit the use of the traditional Latin Mass and leave it to the heads of dioceses to establish local policies. Cardinal Gregory has yet to announce any change to the use of Traditional Mass in the Archdiocese – which is available in a handful of parishes.
In his homily, Cardinal Gregory said he was asked recently by confirmation candidates about the appropriate Christian response to perpetrators of great violence. The questions “came down to whether it was okay to hate those whose actions had caused people in any community such grief,” he said.
The answer, he said, is that “no one ever lies apart from the love of Christ and his command to his disciples. It is a command without exception,” he said.
The consultation process was launched in the fall by Pope Francis to seek information from Catholics around the world in view of a synod of bishops in 2023. In addition to local listening sessions, those who wished could participate through an online survey, which is always available.
The theme of the synod is “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”. The 10-page report from the archdiocese to the USCCB will be among 196 diocesan reports that the episcopal conference will summarize in a report for a continental gathering of dioceses from North and Central America. Ultimately, the reports from the continental gatherings will go to the Vatican for the Synod of Bishops, to form the basis of the October 2023 Synod agenda.