Fall gathering will focus on renewal of individuals, families, parishes and archdiocese
DETROIT — With Synod 16 right around the corner, lay ecclesial ministers know they’ll be on the “front lines” of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s initiative to evangelize the culture of southeast Michigan.
So when ministers from across the Archdiocese of Detroit gathered at Sacred Heart Major Seminary on Aug. 31 for the annual Convocation of Lay Ecclesial Ministers, it made sense that the topic of conversation centered on exactly what will be expected of those called to evangelize in the coming months and years: namely, answering the call of the Holy Spirit.
“Everything we do in these days is about answering the Holy Spirit,” Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said during his homily at the opening Mass. “Everything we do these days is about answering the Holy Spirit’s invitation, to make real in our six counties what happened in Capernaum. We’re on a mission. This hope in our hearts, that same sense of urgency Jesus had when he started his ministry, we have today.”
Msgr. Robert McClory, moderator of the curia in the Archdiocese of Detroit, emphasized a couple of key dates upcoming for the archdiocese as it heads into the November synod, including an Oct. 7 Mass for Pardon, when Archbishop Vigneron will ask God’s mercy for the archdiocese’s transgressions at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and Oct. 27, when the archbishop will pray at the Shrine of St. John Paul II at the Orchard Lake Schools.
The synod itself, Msgr. McClory said, will focus on four themes when it comes to evangelization, namely, the renewal of individuals, families, parishes and Archdiocesan Central Services, and how each can come to a fuller understanding of their role in creating a culture that seeks to know and share Jesus.
“The synod is about turning the Archdiocese of Detroit into a band of joyful, missionary disciples,” Msgr. McClory said. “Who wouldn’t want to be a band of joyful, missionary disciples? (We must preach) that Jesus loves you and the best thing we can give you is Him. When we open up ourselves to Him, amazing things will happen in our lives.”
Auxiliary Bishop Michael Byrnes delivered the first keynote to the lay ministers, speaking about the differences between the Church of the 1960s, when parents and the Catholic community depended largely on the institution itself to educate children in the faith, and the Church of today.
“Each parish had a school, and parents dropped their kids off at school and said, ‘Here, make my kids Catholic,’” Bishop Byrnes said. “We had Mass, adoration; they had us for up to 30 hours a week. By the time I hit middle school, a lot changed. Our religion classes changed. There was a fascination with Jesus as a human, focusing on him as if he were a thing of the past.”
Bishop Byrnes suggested many Catholics in his generation were never properly introduced to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, leading to a decline of faith for many Catholics.
“We relied on the institution to pass on the faith,” Bishop Byrnes said. “That institutional age supported the culture of life we lived in, but it’s all changed. Many of our people who had the institutional relationship instead of an intentional relationship were swept away. The times changed, and we didn’t.”
Guest speaker Deacon Keith Strohm of the Archdiocese of Chicago said lay ministers have the important task of re-emphasizing to their parishes the need for a personal relationship with Jesus.
“Jesus didn’t say, ‘I’m going to the Father, I’m out.’ No, he said, ‘I’ll be with you always, and I’m giving you my Spirit.’ He told us to cleanse the leper, heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead. He didn’t say pray for the sick, pray for the dead. He said heal the sick and raise the dead,” Deacon Strohm said.
“Catholics who profess to believe in the Eucharist shouldn’t have a hard time believing in things less crazy. If we believe bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, how dare we not believe in a Church that raises the dead and casts out demons.”
Deacon Strohm said Church leaders and ministers face a challenge when it comes to establishing a real, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and not just another philosophy.
“Growing up, I never thought of the Holy Spirit as a Person, I thought of Him as a sense of ‘Star Wars,’ like ‘The Force.’ The Holy Spirit gives us power. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon his Apostles, giving them power. St. Paul said the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.
“Christianity without power is just a philosophy,” Deacon Strohm added. “The world has had enough of philosophy; it needs an encounter with Jesus Christ.”