Listening to the voice of the faithful

Parish dialogue gatherings provide input for Synod ‘16

Parishioners discuss ways to better communicate the message of the Gospel during a parish dialogue gathering April 10 at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Redford. St. Robert Bellarmine was one of the first in the archdiocese to host a dialogue session, which will help the Archdiocese of Detroit gather information that will be connsidered during the archdiocesan synod this fall. Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

Parishioners discuss ways to better communicate the message of the Gospel during a parish dialogue gathering April 10 at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Redford. St. Robert Bellarmine was one of the first in the archdiocese to host a dialogue session, which will help the Archdiocese of Detroit gather information that will be considered during the archdiocesan synod this fall.
Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

Redford Township — People across the Archdiocese of Detroit are gathering in halls, discussing parish life and what they would like to see for the future of the Church in Detroit.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron declared an archdiocese-wide synod will take place Nov. 18-20, where clergy and laity will come together to highlight strengths, recognize weaknesses and discuss how the archdiocese can come together to become a more evangelizing diocese.

Before the synod occurs, parishes across the archdiocese are hosting “parish dialogue gatherings,” an opportunity for parishioners to express their hopes, concerns and suggestions for the Church.

St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Redford hosted its dialogue session April 10, one of the first in the archdiocese to do so.

“The purpose of these gatherings is to hear from the faithful about how to be an evangelizing community, preparing for the synod,” said Judie Schuett, who facilitated the discussion at St. Robert Bellarmine. “We’re asking parishioners to write their ideas down on paper and submit them to the archdiocese, with the purpose of assisting the archbishop with the governing of the Catholic Church in southeast Michigan.”

The discussions are broken down into three parts: “Encounter,” “Grow” and “Witness,” each of which is an important part of the evangelization process, said Deacon Bill Kolarik, regional coordinator of the archdiocese’s Department of Parish Life and Services.

“The leadership team for the synod chose ‘Encounter, Grow, Witness’ as a simple way to move forward, understanding the evangelization process,” said Deacon Kolarik, who is a member of the seven-person synod secretariat, which is charged with helping organize the fall gathering. “We have to have an encounter with Jesus, and then we have to grow from that encounter in order to move forward. Then we become a committed disciple, a witness to Jesus’ mercy.”

St. Robert Bellarmine parishioners pray in the parish hall before the start of a parish dialogue gathering April 10.

St. Robert Bellarmine parishioners pray in the parish hall before the start of a parish dialogue gathering April 10.

Parishioners were grouped together at tables, where each one had the chance to answer questions regarding each of the three topics, which were broken down on a personal, parochial and archdiocesan level.

“This is being done to identify the most important issues, to encounter parishioners and engage with them on their perspective of what needs to be done,” Schuett said. “It’s important for the archdiocese to know what we want for the synod.”

St. Robert Bellarmine started its dialogue gathering with a short prayer in the church before gathering in the parish hall, where the groups had time to discuss their responses to each of the three sections.

Some parishioners said they felt an encounter with Jesus through answered prayer and his continued presence in the Church. Others appreciated parish initiatives such as Stephen ministries, festivals and weekly Mass as ways in which the parish community helps parishioners encounter Jesus on a personal level.

Others had suggestions for ways the Archdiocese of Detroit could assist parishes, such as providing speakers and classes at the parish level, continuing education opportunities for people of all age groups and developing advertising and messaging to create a more welcoming Church.

Still others at St. Robert Bellarmine, which recently closed its longstanding grade school, commented on the archdiocese’s policies for parish and school planning, including when and how decisions are made regarding mergers, closures and clustering.

“All of this is designed to solicit a response from our people,” Deacon Kolarik said. “To give the archbishop a perspective of which direction we need to go. These responses will show us also what we are doing and where we are lacking, how the Church can better serve the needs of the parishioners in the future.”

During the “Grow” and “Witness” portions of the dialogue, parishioners highlighted positive initiatives taken up by the local parish, such as Bible studies and community outreach programs for evangelization and interfaith opportunities.

Participants offered ideas on how the archdiocese could better communicate with parishioners, including finance, governance and planning and organizing inter-parish events.

“All the information will be synthesized, and there will be similarities of thought across the archdiocese on what we need to do, we just don’t know what it is yet,” Deacon Kolarik said. “It could be better preaching, more opportunities for Eucharistic adoration, more family activities; these are the kind of ideas that might pop up.”


Attend a parish dialogue gathering

To find out when your parish or a parish near you will host a dialogue gathering, visit www.aod.org/gatherings for a list of the 164 sessions scheduled across the Archdiocese of Detroit.