Synod members gather to hear update, share stories of witness ahead of Pentecost
DETROIT — Addressing members of Synod 16 for the first time since the closing Mass in November, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said he’s working hard to ensure no stone of the historic archdiocesan-wide gathering goes unturned in the months ahead.
“As I think about the graces of the synod, God has given us a lot of wonderful gifts. I feel like I’ve been told by the Lord to go out and get my basket and be sure I gather all the fragments,” Archbishop Vigneron said, addressing approximately 90 synod members gathered March 4 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.
The gathering, the first of four to be held during March, was a chance for synod members to gather again for fellowship and to hear an update from the archbishop about the progress of post-synod planning and his expected pastoral letter, which will be delivered at Pentecost.
Archbishop Vigneron told the members he’s received reports from both the Synod Secretariat — the consultative group tasked with organizing and planning the synod — and the synod’s expert-advisers seeking to capture as much data as possible from the Nov. 18-20, 2016, gathering.
While the results of the voting on the synod’s 46 propositions will form an important part of the expected post-synod pastoral letter, Archbishop Vigneron added he isn’t discounting other insights he’s received from synod members offering strategies and ideas for “unleashing the Gospel” — the archdiocese’s adopted slogan — in the years ahead.
“One of the most significant things I’ve received — and perhaps it’s rather obvious, but I think it’s significant — is that the people of God in the Archdiocese of Detroit endorse making the New Evangelization the basic priority of our lives,” Archbishop Vigneron said to rousing applause. “That’s what God has told the Church in southeast Michigan.”
As to the specifics of the pastoral letter, the archbishop offered his preliminary thoughts, such as the need to incorporate specific “action steps” to correspond to the synod’s propositions and to present the letter in an easily digestible format.
Archbishop Vigneron said he wanted to avoid the “graveyard of bureaucracy, where we plan to plan to plan” in the post-synod process, but “at the same time we want to act reasonably.”
In addition to his reflections on the synod, Archbishop Vigneron said his own discernment will also play a role in whatever steps come next, adding he believes a greater emphasis on elements such as Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation could also play a part.
Archbishop Vigneron offered other updates as well, including plans to make his evangelization leadership group a “permanent council” of the archdiocesan curia to advise him and assess the progress of the initiative. The group, formerly chaired by now-Archbishop Michael Byrnes, will be led by newly ordained Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Battersby, the archbishop said.
The gathering also afforded synod members the chance to pray together and share their own successes and challenges in spreading the energy of the synod in their parishes.
Susan Wit of St. Hubert Parish in Harrison Township said she was charged by her pastor to write a series of bulletin articles about what she experienced at the synod. Wit said after “pouring my heart out” writing the letters and “revealing things about me that I would never reveal to most people spiritually,” several people from the parish approached her with encouraging stories.
Wit said when she receives negative responses from people about the synod, she reminds them that evangelization first starts at home.
“If we believe things can change, then things can change,” Wit said. “Everyone at the synod had similar ideas about the need for communication, the need to get to know one another, to know ourselves and to know where we stand with God. I don’t know if I can stand on a corner and talk about God, but I do know that I have four grandchildren who probably are going to tell me, ‘Gamma, that’s enough.’ And I can start there.”
Bob Salter, a synod facilitator, complimented the archbishop for his authenticity and witness at the synod, saying it inspired synod members to go out and proclaim the good news.
“Your closing homily was extremely moving to many of us, and we want to endorse and support you for being so vulnerable and authentic in the way you shared with us,” Salter said. “And if you can do that for the Church, we’ll be better for it.”
Patty Breen of Holy Family Parish in Novi admitted that when the archbishop requested during the synod that members consider the role of “signs and wonders” in evangelization, she was initially puzzled.
“I thought, ‘What do you mean, signs and wonders? Like, healings and stuff like that?’ But since the synod I’ve spend a lot of time thinking about how when we read these things in the Gospels, they’re not just stories,” Breen said. “Jesus wants us to do those things. He doesn’t want us to just to talk about it, but he wants us to go spiritually heal people and physically heal people. If we believe in the power of the name of Jesus, that should really change how we see it.”
Nicole Podsiadlik of Holy Innocents-St. Barnabas Parish in Eastpointe said her experience of the synod weekend has inspired her to work more closely with members of her parish to encourage evangelization efforts.
“I feel like the synod weekend has really changed my life quite a bit,” Podsiadlik said. “I have shared my synod experience with anyone who will listen to me. I have grown so much and have been able to do many things to keep that fire alive.”