Reading the roadmap: Synod members encouraged by Unleash the Gospel’s hopeful message

Members pray during a session of Synod 16 last November at the Westin Book Cadillac in downtown Detroit.

Detroit — It’s a letter well-worth the six-month wait.

That’s the prevailing sentiment among members of Synod 16, who for months have patiently anticipated Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s answer to their work at the historic archdiocesan gathering last fall.

Now that it’s here, the archbishop’s response — a 42-page pastoral letter titled “Unleash the Gospel” — has many members excited about the possibilities raised from its message and tone.

“The letter is very detailed,” said Dan Quinn, a synod member from SS. Peter and Paul Parish in North Branch. “As usual, the archbishop does a great job on it. He’s a very detailed man, very humble from what I saw at the synod.”

The archbishop touched upon the major points raised at the synod, Quinn said, but transparency and communication between the archdiocese and its parishes was a point he felt was especially stressed.

Members of St. Mary Queen of Creation Parish in New Baltimore sing and play music during the Bay Rama FlyFish Festival parade June 25 through New Baltimore while riding on a float featuring the phrase “Joyful Missionary Disciples” — a reference to Archbishop Vigneron’s pastoral letter.

“I hope the Archdiocese of Detroit can be as transparent as the letter says,” Quinn said. “There are a lot of priests looking for guidance from the archdiocese, to get them the things they need to be organized. If the archdiocese starts the evangelization initiative at the parish level, the pastors can take it and spread it out to families and individuals.”

Quinn said one of his favorite parts about the letter is how each guidepost — a section in the letter addressing a key theme from the synod — begins with a section from Scripture.

“The theme is to ‘Unleash the Gospel,’ and I like how he led each of the sections with a caption from the Acts of the Apostles or some sacramental verse from the Gospel,” Quinn said. “It shows how the work done at the synod is linked with the work done by the apostles 2,000 years ago.”

The pastoral letter’s connection with Synod 16 was also highlighted by Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Battersby of the South Region during the Presbyteral Council meeting in June.

“The pastoral letter is a work mined from the hearts and concerns of the laity, the religious, the clergy of the archdiocese in the buildup and during Synod 16,” Bishop Battersby said. “It is the fruit of listening to the spirit of Jesus Christ, the prayerful listening of our chief shepherd to his flock, and the movement of the Holy Spirit.”

Bishop Battersby emphasized to the council that the letter is much more than a mere “bureaucratic church document” but a roadmap for the future of the archdiocese for generations to come.

“It calls every soul in the archdiocese to bring Jesus in from the peripheries of our lives, from the peripheries of our institutions to the center of our lives,” he said.

Other synod members were impressed with the bold nature of the letter. Mother Mary Elizabeth Moore, OCD, of the Monastery of St. Therese in Clinton Township, said the letter’s tone reflects the profound confidence the archbishop has in the people of the Archdiocese of Detroit in transforming the local Church into the much-referenced “band of joyful missionary disciples.”

“I’m amazed with how much belief there is in what the Lord can do in the archdiocese and believing the archdiocese can do this,” Mother Moore said. “The archbishop’s tremendous faith in the people to make this a reality is truly something.”

Mother Moore said her role in the implementation of the letter will be praying for the endeavors of the archbishop.

“Living in a cloistered monastery, it’ll be my task in my daily prayer to consciously bring the intentions of the archbishop to God,” Mother Moore said. “This is a huge undertaking, and our job is to have the faith that the Lord has put in us. We live in the presence of God, and whatever is going on, we need to keep in mind that this is the work of the Lord.”

The pastoral letter addresses many specifics of what the Church can do to make Jesus central in the lives of the people in southeast Michigan, said Jillian Bell, a synod member from St. Charles Lwanga Parish in Detroit.

“What I’m most happy about is they really want to evangelize and bring God back to the city of Detroit,” Bell said. “Right now, our young people are losing faith, or they never really had it. We need to reintroduce how God can solve things; you just have to believe.”

Bell hopes the letter will spark a renewed interest in evangelization at the archdiocese’s smaller parishes.

“I’m hoping the Archdiocese of Detroit can work with smaller parishes, they are the ones that are going to have to work the hardest to get the people in those neighborhoods back into the Church,” Bell said.

“I’m also happy to hear Central Services wants to work with the parishes, especially with people who have lost their parishes,” Bell said. “That’s so important, knowing we merged and closed one of ours. It’s very difficult; we need help from downtown, helping people feel comfortable. Then we can go out and evangelize.”