The coadjutor archbishop of Agana, Guam — until recently auxiliary bishop of Detroit and a leading voice in organizing the efforts of Synod 16 — remembers how it started, when the planning for the historic gathering was in its infancy.
“Three years ago, we gathered about 50 people together with the archbishop, people who would be tasked with looking at the family, clergy, etc. — basically it was the task force for the synod,” Archbishop Byrnes told The Michigan Catholic. “It was a transformative day, but I walked out amazed, thinking ‘Wow, we’ve got 50 people who really want to see the archdiocese evangelized.’”
Fast forward to today, and those numbers have undeniably grown.
“Walking around (at the synod), I’m thinking, ‘Wow, now we’ve got 400 people who really want to see the archdiocese evangelized,’” Archbishop Byrnes said. “We’re the seed.”
After all, he said, that’s how evangelization is supposed to work.
“The archbishop captured it well when he said this is personal, rather than programmatic,” Archbishop Byrnes said. “Evangelization is personal because Christianity is personal. It all started with the archbishop saying, ‘I want to do this.’ Then he talked to me, and that was two. And from there to three or four others, and then it grew to 12. This is the way the Holy Spirit works.”
Msgr. Ronald Browne, secretary for Synod 16, said the decision to open the synod by talking about individuals and families rightly places the emphasis where it should be.
“As a Church, we talk about how parents are the primary educators of our children, but we’ve gotten to a place where we provide everything, rather than working with the parents,” Msgr. Browne said. “Parents often just have this attitude of ‘Here, take my kids and make them Catholic.’ We need to work together to help parents to be the primary educators of their children.”
Changing that attitude — which Archbishop Byrnes termed the “stop, drop and roll” mentality — will take more than just the synod itself, Msgr. Browne said.
“It’s not this large program, but we touch each other on an individual level,” Msgr. Browne said. “If I have that relationship with Jesus, Jesus will empower me through the Holy Spirit and I won’t have that fear of sharing my faith.”
Regardless of the decisions reached through Synod 16, synod master of ceremonies Mike Fullam said he’s noticed a change in the Archdiocese of Detroit in just the two years since he’s been working with the archdiocese through the Catholic Leadership Institute.
“I’ve been here a couple of years, but to me it’s been a profound difference,” said Fullam, who lives in Philadelphia. “There’s a lot of work to do to prepare for all this, but I’ve worked with several other dioceses, and I’ve overwhelmed by this.”
Fullam said the discussion surrounding the synod’s fourth theme, Archdiocesan Central Services, in relation to the first three is already a change in culture when compared to many other dioceses.
“The perspective of (Detroit’s) Central Services is they want to ‘serve’ the individuals, the families and the parishes and help them grow in their faith,” Fullam said. “Even that is a cultural shift from the way some other chanceries would work that are little more, say, prescriptive. This is very much the reverse.
“It excites me not just for Detroit, but for our Church with a capital ‘C,’” Fullam added. “It brings hope.”