To Be the Best Church We Can Be

Parishioners from Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian shared their feedback at a parish listening session earlier this spring.

The celebration of our birthday often prompts us to spend some time reviewing the past year and setting some goals for the year to come.  Similarly, as we prepare to celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost on Sunday – sometimes called the birthday of the Church – the Archdiocese of Washington has been reviewing its work and examining its mission.

In receiving the Spirit that had been promised by Jesus, the Apostles were able to go out and preach the Gospel, forgive sins and teach in the name of Christ.  In every age, through the power of the Spirit, the Church continues to fulfill the mission it was given by the Lord.

Pentecost this year marks a special moment in the life of our local Church.  At the 11:30 am Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, I will formally call for an Archdiocesan Synod to be held on Pentecost 2014.

Over the last eight months, in preparation for the synod, parishioners have been gathering in parishes all over the archdiocese for listening sessions.  In these meetings, participants have been asked to identify the strengths of their parish in five areas: worship, education, community, service and administration/stewardship. How do they perceive the fruits of their prayer and worship? How robust is their outreach to our brothers and sisters who need assistance with food and housing and emergency needs? Where is the parish strong in the area of education and faith formation? These are just a sample of the questions people were asked to consider.

Recognizing the strengths of their particular parish, participants were then asked to consider where they need to grow and develop in order to be the best Church that we can be.  Like looking at the year ahead on a birthday, it was a time for parishioners to say we can grow, as good as we are, we can, with the help of Our Lord, be a better parish. For example, parishioners have talked about how to be a more welcoming community to newcomers, communicate better the needs of the parish so that everyone can contribute gifts of time, talent and treasure and consider adding more time for prayer and devotions.

Another step in the process has involved participants looking at all of the strengths and possibilities for growth and identifying three or four priorities that are important at this time in their parish, and may also be important in other parishes across the archdiocese.

People who participated in the listening sessions say they found them very enjoyable and energizing. They also said that they are very interested in seeing how the priorities of their parish will match those from other parishes. What will be some common areas of need for the whole Church of Washington?

Many groups realized that they might have some unique needs for various reasons. While those needs may not match the needs of many other parishes, they remain a priority and the particular parish can begin to think about meeting these specific needs. One group reported that their pastoral council members left the listening session ready to get to work on establishing goals for newly identified priorities. This is the power of the Holy Spirit moving through our parishes.

Certainly, not everyone was able to be present for a parish listening session, but anyone who would like to participate may do so by clicking this link and following the directions.

This coming Sunday, when the preparatory phase of the Archdiocesan Synod is formally initiated, the work of identifying common priorities that will direct the ministry of the archdiocese in the future will be put into the capable hands of some 200 delegates, including over 125 lay women and men and religious sisters and brothers. Chosen from parishes and agencies from every part of our archdiocese, they will read through the information and priorities that have been gathered and make note of common priorities, unique opportunities for growth in particular regions of the archdiocese and areas of strength that should be sustained and supported.  This part of the Synod will take some months.

Next fall, the delegates will present to me their findings and suggest priorities for each area of parish life.  On Pentecost 2014, we will gather to promulgate the priorities, thanking God for sending us the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct our work in serving his Church.

Please join me in prayer for the success of the Synod.