In 2014 the Archdiocese of Washington will celebrate its 75th anniversary. This jubilee provides us an opportunity to rejoice in the past accomplishments of the Church of Washington and also to look forward as we plan for the future. It seems appropriate to mark this historic moment in the life of our local Church with an archdiocesan synod.
After extensive consultation with the Priest Council, our Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the deaneries about the possibility of organizing such a synod, and upon receiving their enthusiastic support, I invited several hundred laywomen and laymen – all nominated by the deaneries and representing a vast cross-section of the archdiocese – to an initial discussion. Here, too, the expression of support was enthusiastic.
On the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I announced my intention to convoke a synod of the Archdiocese of Washington – the first in our archdiocesan history – to take place on the Solemnity of Pentecost, June 8, 2014.
Our archdiocesan synod will provide us an opportunity to look at the life of the local Church, to evaluate where the ministry of the Church is successful and the areas where there may be need for more attention so that we can better prepare ourselves to carry forward the work of the Church into the future. The pastoral priorities of our local Church will be examined, particularly within the context of the New Evangelization and in the spirit of the Year of Faith. Input from the faithful will be gathered with the goal of providing pastoral direction for the future work of our archdiocesan Church. The synod would also be the setting in which the existing archdiocesan policies will be reviewed and, if necessary, updated.
It is the obligation of the archbishop to preside over a synod. Ex officio members include the auxiliary bishops, episcopal vicars, judicial vicar, members of the Priest Council, deans and representatives of religious communities located in the archdiocese, as well as a substantial number of lay faithful. I am pleased to note that those laywomen and laymen nominated by the deaneries, as well as those who are members of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, reflect, in a significant way, the composition of our local Church and its ethnic and cultural richness. Plans call for at least 250 participants in the discussions that will consider the input invited from the whole archdiocesan Church.
The timeline for the synod is anticipated to allow for input from the faithful, both through parish and deanery gatherings and directly through a dedicated synod website. My hope is that this portion of the process will be completed by the Solemnity of Pentecost, Sunday, May 19, 2013. From that date on through Pentecost, Sunday, June 8, 2014, synodal sessions will be held to reflect on all of the feedback that has been gathered and prepare the conclusions and recommendations of the synod. The actual synod itself would be convened on Pentecost, Sunday, June 8, 2014.
The frame of reference for the observations solicited throughout the archdiocese and for the reflections and discussions within the synod gatherings will include five essential areas of Church life: worship; education; community; service, and administration/stewardship. Within these five areas the life and mission of the Church can be in some way identified. Thus, we have a structure for conversation across the entire archdiocese.
As soon as the directory for the synod is completed and all of the catechetical and discussion material prepared, it will all be made available in both print and electronic form and the parish-level discussions will be able to begin.
Given the significance of this undertaking and the importance of it for our archdiocesan Church, I ask God to bless this effort, and I also ask you to pray for its success.