Historic gathering to be part of ‘archdiocese-wide initiative to evangelize,’ he says
Detroit — Saying it’s time for “the Church to be young again,” Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron announced May 23 he will convoke an archdiocese-wide synod in the fall of 2016 to re-focus on the critical mission of evangelization and “to encounter Christ anew” as a missionary Church.
The archbishop made the announcement during his homily at the ordination Mass of five new priests for the Archdiocese of Detroit at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The archbishop also brought to a close a Year of Prayer for a New Pentecost, during which he said “we have prayed that our whole culture as an archdiocese can be changed.”
“We have been asking God to awaken in us the hearts of disciples of Jesus in order first of all to encounter Christ anew, secondly to grow daily in fidelity as his disciples, and thirdly to witness the power of his mercy to all who need it,” the archbishop said.
“This day, this vigil of Pentecost, I testify to you that God is answering this prayer,” he said. “I confirm that this day is the start of our archdiocese-wide initiative to evangelize.”
Rumblings and preparations for an archdiocesan synod have been unofficially under way since 2012, when Archbishop Vigneron made known his intentions in a pastoral letter, “Forward in Hope to Share Christ.”
After years of practical preparations and institutional reorganization, the time is ripe to shift focus from maintenance to mission, the archbishop said. The synod will be “an important part” of an ongoing conversation about how best to reach out to a world that “looks to be bored with the Lord Jesus and His Good News,” he said.
With recent polls showing the number of those claiming membership in the Catholic Church and other Christian communities plummeting at an alarming rate, an archdiocesan synod will bring together hundreds of clergy and laity from across Metro Detroit to engage in a discussion about how to reverse that trend.
“St. John Paul II said it well: ‘We have to launch out into the deep. We have to start over, start fresh with new energy and new courage,’” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Synods are by God’s grace something powerful in the life of the Church, a way to grow together. Our community will come together in the midst of the Holy Spirit to discern where He seems to take us in order to re-evangelize ourselves and our culture. By listening to what the members say in the synod, I will be able to discern and ratify the work of the Holy Spirit, and it will be a time of great grace.”
While synods on a larger scale, such as the Synod of Bishops on the family that will meet for a second time in Rome this fall, have grown more common in the life of the Church since the Second Vatican Council, the last local synod in the Archdiocese of Detroit was convoked by Cardinal John Dearden in 1969.
That synod, like the one that will be held in 2016, was also about responding to the call of the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Vigneron said.
“In light of Lumen Gentium’s teachings about the Church and the people of God, we were able to make consultative bodies that became part of our DNA and who we are” after the 1969 synod, the archbishop said, referring to parish pastoral councils and bodies such as the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and Presbyteral Council, which advise the archbishop on pastoral matters. Those bodies came about directly as a result of the Second Vatican Council’s call for a more engaged lay leadership, he said, but the second part of that call — lay involvement in the work of evangelization — has yet to be fully realized.
“I am confident that in response to our prayers through the synod in 2016, God will make being missionaries part of the DNA of our archdiocese,” the archbishop said.
“The first response to the Second Vatican Council was quite obviously about ourselves as a Church. Now, we are ready and have the resources we need to respond fresh to the council in order to be missionaries as a Church to offer Christ to the world,” he said.
Though specific details about the 2016 synod — dates, delegates, committees, membership, etc. — have yet to be worked out, more information will be forthcoming over the coming months, Archbishop Vigneron said. Committees and teams are expected to be formed that will focus on prayer and intercession, clergy formation and involvement, and those committed to family and lay engagement.
“This will be a time of formation for all of us.Formation especially in hearing the Gospel anew — perhaps not so much about catechesis, but a time to be in love again with Jesus Christ so that then we can support the members of the synod as we discern how the Spirit leads us forward in this new millennium, making us joyful missionary disciples.”