Excitement in the air as Synod 16 finally set to begin

Synod members will process from the Westin Book Cadillac hotel in downtown Detroit to nearby St. Aloysius Church to begin the opening Mass of Synod 16 at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 18. It's been a long journey to the first synod in the Archdiocese of Detroit since 1969, but when Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron formally opens the historic gathering next week, it will all have been worth it, leaders say. (Photo by Tim Hinkle, Archdiocese of Detroit)

Synod members will process from the Westin Book Cadillac hotel in downtown Detroit to nearby St. Aloysius Church to begin the opening Mass of Synod 16 at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 18. It’s been a long journey to the first synod in the Archdiocese of Detroit since 1969, but when Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron formally opens the historic gathering next week, it will all have been worth it, leaders say. (Photo by Tim Hinkle, Archdiocese of Detroit)

Historic gathering opens Nov. 18 in downtown Detroit

DETROIT — Msgr. Ronald Browne admits he is excited to see where the Holy Spirit will guide the local Church in the run-up and aftermath of Synod 16.

He also admits that with the historic gathering just a week away, he’s feeling “a little nervousness, too.”

“On my part as secretary of the synod, I’m always wondering, ‘Is this all going to come together?’” said Msgr. Browne, who leads the 11-member synod secretariat that has been immersed in the work of planning and coordinating the archdiocesan gathering over the past year and a half. “That’s that flesh side of me saying that, while the spiritual side is calm, knowing that this is all going to work out and the Holy Spirit is truly at work here.”

Synod 16 November 18-20, 2016 Westin Book Cadillac Detroit

Synod 16
November 18-20, 2016
Westin Book Cadillac Detroit

That work will begin in earnest next week as 359 synod members gather in downtown Detroit to listen, pray and discern the future of the Archdiocese of Detroit in light of Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s call for a shift in focus from “maintenance to mission” and a greater emphasis on evangelization.

The archbishop’s emphasis on the need to transform the archdiocese into a “band of joyful, missionary disciples” is the driving force behind the synod, said Deacon Bill Kolarik, a member of the secretariat.

“The synod members, in their deliberations, are being specifically gathered to assist the archbishop in discerning which propositions are best suited to start us on the path of changing the DNA of this archdiocese,” Deacon Kolarik said. “I’m excited at the prospects of where the church of Detroit is going to be headed.”

Those propositions, which range from the personal — “Invite and challenge all Catholics to encourage one another to embrace a life of holiness” — to the practical — “Facilitate new collaboration between parishes to ensure that every parish has the resources necessary to accomplish its mission” — will form the basis of the discussions at the three-day synod, which begins Nov. 18 at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel in downtown Detroit. The 46 propositions are broken into four themes — individuals, families, parishes and Archdiocesan Central Services.

“All of the propositions are important, and they’re all very good, but what we’re really trying to gather from the synod members is, where is the Holy Spirit telling us to start?” Msgr. Browne said. “This is very important because if we get the beginning wrong, we might be going down a path that isn’t where God wants us to be.”

While a majority of the propositions are what Deacon Kolarik termed “actionable” — or specific “to-dos” for the local Church — some, especially those under the individuals and family themes, are designed to get synod members thinking about their own personal relationship with Jesus.

“Any journey of faith starts with the individual. As the archbishop said when he began talking about the New Evangelization many years ago, conversion has to start with each of us,” Deacon Kolarik said. “In these propositions, we have to start with the aspirations of the individual — what am I called to in being a disciple of the Lord? And then how do I take that encounter with the Lord, the growth in my faith and the witness of my faith, how do I bring that into my family?”

While synod members will not vote on the “aspirational” items, they will be asked to offer their input on the synod’s “actionable” propositions, Deacon Kolarik said.

To do so, small groups of six to eight members will gather under the guidance of a table facilitator to carefully consider each item, debating and deliberating until a table consensus is reached. After those discussions, each table will report its findings to the larger group, and the results of all the tables will be tallied and given to Archbishop Vigneron.

Also seated at each table will be an “expert-adviser,” or non-voting synod observer, whose task will be to take notes and offer specialized input when asked, Deacon Kolarik said.

“The expert-adviser is at the table to observe, to listen to that discussion, to be the scribe of the table and to reflect on that and provide that information to the archbishop,” Deacon Kolarik said. “What were the dynamics? What was the discussion like? Expert-advisers are another channel to provide additional feedback to the archbishop.”

Ultimately, providing input to the archbishop is the primary task of the synod, Msgr. Browne said, which is why patience in the process is so important.

“The synod is the vehicle through which the Church as a larger body truly invites the Holy Spirit to guide us,” Msgr. Browne said. “That’s what makes it different from any other meeting. This is something that holy Mother Church has given us when we are deeply seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

After the synod’s conclusion, it will be important to keep the momentum moving, Msgr. Browne said, adding he hopes synod members will take back with them to their parishes a new fire for evangelization as the archbishop prays over the next steps.

“The buildup (to the synod) is like the upper room at Pentecost. It’s very intense, but how do we keep that mission alive?” Msgr. Browne said. “Leading up to the celebration of Pentecost 2017, hopefully the archbishop will have discerned all of the information from the synod and been able to put it together and announce to us the direction where the Holy Spirit is leading us.”


St. Aloysius welcomes faithful during synod

St. Aloysius Church in downtown Detroit, where the liturgical celebrations of next week’s archdiocesan synod will take place, is welcoming visitors who wish to stop in and pray during the synod’s proceedings. In addition to the synod’s opening Mass, which is open to the public and will begin at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 18, St. Aloysius will be accessible at the following times:

  • Friday, Nov. 18, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (parish Mass at 12:15 p.m.)
  • Saturday, Nov. 19, 4-6 p.m. (parish Mass at 5 p.m.)
  • Sunday, Nov. 20, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (parish Mass at 10:30 a.m.)

A plenary indulgence is offered for those who visit St. Aloysius to pray during the synod, assuming the usual conditions for receiving an indulgence (confession, Eucharist, prayers for the pope’s intentions, etc.) are met.