Synod members see their role as ‘paving the way’ for others

Synod members smile while processing from the Westin Book Cadillac hotel on the opening day of Synod 16. (Mike Stechschulte, The Michigan Catholic)

Synod members smile while processing from the Westin Book Cadillac hotel on the opening day of Synod 16. (Mike Stechschulte, The Michigan Catholic)

Participants reflect on graces, experiences of historic synod on evangelization

DETROIT — If past truly is prologue, then Synod 16 was history in the making.

And while the synod’s members, facilitators, expert-advisers and staff were working on coming up with a new spiritual direction for the Archdiocese of Detroit, the moment’s historical impact was not lost on those who for three days called upon the Holy Spirit to create a “band of joyful, missionary disciples.”

“We were so busy with planning for this, but it is so pleasing seeing how well the group discussions went,” said synod secretariat member Krista Bajoka in an interview with The Michigan Catholic. “Coming into the synod, I thought about how the discussion would go, how well people would sit with one another. After seeing it all for the past weekend, I’m pleased with how it’s all going.”

Synod 16 came to a close Nov. 20 at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel, but Bajoka and other synod participants were assured the closing Mass at St. Aloysius Church wasn’t an ending, but a new beginning.

“I don’t see it as coming to a close, I see it as a larger step in ‘Unleashing the Gospel,’” Bajoka said. “First, we had the Year of Mercy, than we had ‘Come, Encounter Christ!,’ then the synod, which is a big step. But next we’ll have Pentecost, and we’ll keep moving, keep growing. This is part of a larger path.”

That larger path seemed to be on the minds of all synod members during their small and large group discussions. Synod members repeatedly had difficulty choosing just one of the propositions to recommend to Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron in his future planning for the archdiocese, seeing how they all lead to a single goal — evangelize.

“I’m impressed with how in every level of discussion, people have talked so passionately about evangelization,” said Larry Berch of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Troy. “All the themes we address go back to the fundamental theme of evangelization. What we discussed at our tables was figuring out a way to clearly communicate what we mean by evangelization, so the average person in the pew understands.”

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

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

That word — the focus of the three-day synod weekend — meant a lot of different things to different people across the archdiocese, and the synod offered people from varied backgrounds a chance to offer their input on a truly universal Church in southeast Michigan.

“I like to think we’re here to represent the people who are marginalized, the people who seem to have no place,” said Beth Collison of St. Anastasia Parish in Troy. “The Church needs to be a place for people on ‘the edges,’ the marginalized, the homeless, and the divorced. I think the archbishop’s heart is in the right place, that some of his language about recognizing that term as a missionary Church is where we need to go.”

With the synod closing, Collison it is key for synod members to go back to their families, parishes, communities and places of work and be ambassadors for Christ in an open, welcoming community.

“I think as a missionary Church, it means actively going out into your community,” Collison said. “We need to pave a way back to the table, with the place at the table set for you. Our job is to go out and find a place in the Church for them.”

What struck many about the synod was the efficiency of the efforts to improve God’s Church in Detroit, and how Catholics from Erie to North Branch all came together to pray for a common purpose.

Stephen Foster, IT operations director for the archdiocese and an employee of Archdiocesan Central Services — the subject of the synod’s fourth session — said he was impressed by the spirit of the gathering.

“I’ve been pretty excited to be involved in the process,” said Foster, who helped with the technical aspects of the synod. “I feel like I watched a small miracle in it all coming together; one lady even told me she’s sad it’s ending today. Everybody seemed to be on the same page, addressing the questions poses to them with thoughtful, concise answers, not rambling. In my limited perception, I don’t view it that anything is broken; people are just excited to how we as a Church can get better, and that’s exciting to watch unfold.”

The ideas synod members suggested in the small and large groups settings ranged from broad-based principles involving everyone in Church life to specific reforms in marriage preparation and youth ministry. But each and every idea, thought and principle shared had one common theme — the changes needed to become an outward-looking archdiocese.

“I think there was a large emphasis on encountering Christ in all the themes,” said synod member Edmundo Reyes, director of institutional advancement at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. “We believe the people are having one major encounter with Christ, that encounter with the Lord outside the parish setting, which just changes everything in their lives. And all the talks I’ve been a part of have been about what we as a Church need to do in our parishes to build on that encounter, how we realign our resources to that mission.

“The Church exists for that mission, so that drive toward the mission I find exciting.”