What are the Compiled Listening Session Responses?

Responses to the Fundamental Question and five Core Questions and the Final Question on the Holy Spirit received from notetakers through in-person and virtual Listening Sessions as well as written surveys are compiled below. Some content in the responses received by notetakers in the Listening Sessions were duplicative and not repeated in this detailed compilation.


Fundamental Question: A Synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together.”

How is this “journeying together” happening today in your parish? How is the Holy Spirit inviting your parish community to grow in “journeying together”? Where in these experiences do you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?

  • Our primary way of journeying together is in the communal Eucharistic celebration.
  • Having a good and holy and encouraging pastor helps us all be more open to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Having guidance and wisdom, encouragement, and even training on listening opens ears and minds and hearts. Emphasis on relationship, accompaniment, “we’re in this journey together” is so valuable.
  • The flip side of journeying together that we’ve seen during the pandemic is the absence of so many we used to be with regularly as they withdraw from active parish life due to health and other concerns.
  • The witness of our many young families, our vibrant school and its students. The welcoming nature and diversity of our parish community speaks volumes as well. Our parish is accessible to and accepting of those with physical disabilities or other challenges.
  • We can see the Holy Spirit working through parish response to need (food collections, Angel Tree) and disasters (collections for people affected by storms). Healing and devotional Masses, adoration weekly. The livestreamed Masses, parking lot adoration, outdoor confession, and the establishment of an outdoor Stations of the Cross walk during covid lockdown helped keep the flame alive for many. Some who are still not comfortable returning to in-person worship miss these opportunities and have had to turn to other venues (e.g., the televised Shrine Mass) that are less of a personal parish connection.
  • Active laity is hugely important – brings others in, supports them. There’s room for everyone to be as active as they wish. Doing more than just Sunday obligation, to sacrifice our time. The ministries and organized groups in the parish provide opportunities for that, as do the volunteer activities the children in our parish school have. Putting others first draws us out of ourselves and closer to God.
  • We need to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work – be open, be silent and listen.
  • The level of accompaniment and participation amongst our members is a huge indicator of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our parish.
  • Sense of invitation, welcome, family, unity, mutual encouragement – pre-covid this was a strength, but it is more challenging now. We all yearn for a return to where we were pre-covid as a jumping off point to greater things.
  • The most Foundational Question we must ask is not how we are journeying together, but to where? Are we going to the Father by the Way of Truth and Life? Or are we going to Rome to crucify our Lord again? The Church must live out core Gospel values and the virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Courage. It can no longer make excuses or cover up the sins and abuses as too many in positions of responsibility have done.

Core Question 1: Listening

How is God speaking to us through the voices that are in our midst? How is God speaking to us through voices we sometimes ignore, including those on the peripheries? What space is there to listen to the voices on the peripheries, especially cultural groups, women, the disabled, those who experience poverty, marginalization, or social exclusion?

  • When we listen with Christ in our heart; actively listen – do not pre-judge. We are all in a different place spiritually. God will always give us opportunities to learn and grown from our sisters and brothers. Hear the fullness of the person’s story.
  • There are opportunities to be had in small group settings (Lenten mission, men’s & women’s groups, Institute of Theology, etc.). The Synod process has been a good opportunity as well. The point is to keep people engaged.
  • It is good when the church doors are open at non-Mass times so we can come into the silence and the presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. The covid shutdowns were very difficult for many.
  • There are all the people at Mass who can be easily reached, but what about Inwood House, nursing homes, homebound? Where are opportunities to listen to them? The Stephen Ministry is extremely valuable in serving them. Can we do more?
  • What about the parish’s mission church (Mision San Andres)? There seems to be no connection either way.
  • God speaks to us through those who are absent from our midst during these pandemic times. How can we reach them better?
  • The pandemic has brought the needs of so many out into the open. We see that in the lines for food distribution and the people asking for help on the corners as we drive, for example. That’s a “voice” we need to heed – that the needs of so many even right here in our community are great, and we are called to serve our neighbor.
  • We cannot “tune out“ the others in our daily lives as we’re sometimes inclined to do, from the person at the store to the person in our own home. To do so means we’re not hearing God’s voice. We need to listen more than we talk.
  • We need to be sensitive to potential perceived divisions, e.g., parish school apart from faith formation kids, home school families as distinct from parish school families. Single parents can feel like outsiders. To the extent we can erase any perceived divisions, we unify the Body of Christ in our parish.

Core Question 2: Speaking Out

What enables or hinders you from speaking up courageously, candidly, and responsibly in your parish and society What space is there in your parish for the voice of people, including active and inactive members of our faith?

  • Some people are reluctant to speak up/speak out because they have little or no confidence that those in authority will actually listen to them. Why bother?
  • Some have trouble articulating their views because of language or cultural barriers.
  • It’s not always clear what the “proper channels” are in the parish.
  • A previous pastor was felt by some to be aloof and unavailable.
  • Opportunities for communal sharing in the parish context or in friendship groups formed through parish interactions enable us to speak up freely and courageously. Being able to share one’s story, worries, hopes, and pain in a safe environment is valuable beyond words.
  • A previous pastor held a listening session to allow anyone who wished to come an opportunity to speak, question, or mourn the recent revelations about the depth of the child sexual abuse crises in nearby Pennsylvania and the larger Church. That was viewed as a courageous move and an opportunity for those present to feel heard. It was genuinely appreciated and valued for the sincere opening it was.
  • The physical space of the parish – church building, school, and grounds – offer an opportunity for speaking up and sharing among both active and inactive members (and even those non-Catholics and non-Christians in our neighborhood) when paired with opportunities for people to interact, e.g., anything from a routine school day or CYO game to a Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast or a parish picnic to a Corpus Christi procession.
  • In society, our Catholic views can be painted as prejudiced or judgmental or even hateful. Some of us fear such a label. We need to be able and confident to share the truth. Sometimes we even fear speaking up within the Church due to the divisions that exist. Even the idea of this Synod has led to division within the Church.
  • One respondent expressed skepticism regarding Pope Francis’ orthodoxy and decisions, preferring the pronouncements of Archbishop Vigano and other of the same mind. They saw the current Synod and synodal process as “mushy” and not worthy of trust. This person also saw St. Andrew’s observance of the county’s mask mandate for indoor spaces as a capitulation to “the state” and has considered relocating to another diocese. (Conversely, other respondents expressed appreciation that St. Andrew’s was observing recommended safety protocols.)
  • A different respondent stated that the Church should (1) stop threatening to withhold the Eucharist from pro-choice politicians, (2) stop withholding sacraments from LGBTQ individuals and couples, and (3) allow women to be ordained as priests.

Core Question 3: Sharing Responsibility for Our Common Mission and Sharing Authority and Participation

How are the baptized members of your parish able to participate in the mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel? What hinders people from being active in your parish? How is authority or governance exercised in your local parish? How are teamwork and co-responsibility put into practice in your local parish?

  • In a simple way, we participate by participating. You cannot be fed if you don’t come to the meal.
  • We need to be able to feel we have a pastor who knows his flock. A previous pastor embodied that. He knew our names, answered our phone calls. A pastor should know his people and the needs of his flock in such as way as to be able to give specific encouragement and exhortation (from the pulpit and individually) to spur them to action. Having three changes of our pastor over the course of just 18 months has been difficult for many and has derailed this ideal to a large extent.
  • We need to feel our pastor supports the apostolates and devotions and service opportunities and other ways we find community as parish members. Previous pastor encouraged people to “run with it” and be empowered as not just disciples, but apostles. We look forward to journeying with our new pastor, and hope that he will be able to lead us in holiness and faithful discipleship for many years to come. We need a pastor who is holy, righteous, energetic, and brave in the face of the growing attacks on the Church.
  • What can our Archbishop and the diocese do to help our pastors navigate the challenges of the pandemic and help them reassemble their fractured communities? How can we all invite people back?
  • The ministries and volunteer groups in the parish are valued by other parishioners and are driven by the ideas and efforts of involved laity. Those involved in these endeavors are always going to feel a greater sense of participation.
  • Outreach is important. Some people may say they don’t know what opportunities there are to participate. Others just need to be asked. A “new parishioner” packet and a regular ministry fair could be helpful, as would a welcome ministry.
  • The abuse and financial scandals in the larger U.S. Church have soured some people on the Faith. There are some who will not contribute to “outside the parish” efforts such as the Annual Appeal on these grounds as well.
  • All authority in the Church comes from Christ. A corrupt Archbishop cannot change the Word of God and cannot diminish the love of our Lord Jesus. But our faith has indeed been shaken by the corruption of this archdiocese, and our obedience to the teaching authority of the Church must now be accompanied by a prudent skepticism of the leaders who run the archdiocese and the servants they select to implement their orders. This is a great loss to our community that must be remedied with the most urgent priority.
  • Some are afraid to participate because it might mean they’re “putting out into the deep” and they lack confidence that they can serve God and others in a more profound way. We need to find ways to build them up!
  • Some are just too overwhelmed to participate. Parents of young children, people working multiple jobs or caring for an infirm family member. Life situations can be an obstacle. Similarly, some might feel overwhelmed by the size of the parish and just not see themselves as having a role. We need to be encouraging.
  • We need a youth group – that’s been missing for some years now. Some respondents pointed to the need for additional opportunities for the women of the parish to gather. Others pointed to a need for a young adult group, and others to a weekday Mom’s group. We can find and highlight opportunities for service for all (food pantry, soup kitchens locally, Mustard Seed and related apostolates farther from home).
  • Our all-volunteer catechist corps is a great witness. The level of engagement in the students (with the encouragement of their parents) is good. Indeed, some parents are effectively receiving catechesis along with their children. The children’s choir is a wonderful example of this.
  • The parish website is a good resource – homilies, bulletins, news and events are clearly offered. Similarly, Flocknotes and other email communications have been particularly helpful in fostering community during the pandemic.
  • The exercise of governance & authority in our parish is unclear to many. We do not currently have an active parish council due to the change in pastors. The parish should be better informed about the parish council and finance council, the liturgy committee, etc. and where they all stand. Ditto for more communication about our “on again/off again” capital campaign. People want to know, and knowledge empowers decisions.
  • A sad fact is that too many people “vote with their feet.” If they don’t feel connected and feel like their voice and participation are important, they simply leave the parish.

Core Question 4: Discerning and Deciding

How does your parish use the methods of listening and speaking (consultation) to make decisions? How does your parish promote participation in decision-making within the hierarchical structures of the Church? Does the decision-making methods of your parish help you to listen to all members of the community, including those who are on the peripheries of parish life?

  • The Synod process has been useful in this regard. People have been given a chance to weigh in. This can be carried forward by a pastor who sincerely asks for, and is open to, the thoughts of his flock.
  • Among the various small groups, active participants can have a say in the functioning and focus of the group.
    It appears with the three recent (within 18 months) changes in pastor, large decisions are being put off. There has not been a seated parish council in this time either.
  • Those on the peripheries of parish life, if they are attending Mass at least sometimes and care to pick up a bulletin or check the parish website, can have the same opportunities to know what’s going on in the parish and participate should they so choose.
  • Listening sessions geared to particular demographics (e.g., families with young children, young adults, married couples, retired people) could help shed light on additional opportunities to connect. Could there be a suggestion box, or scheduled forums where people could raise issues?
  • Our parish leaders over the years have proven themselves to be transparent and trustworthy. Archdiocesan leadership has not yet done enough to allow our parish to participate in decision-making within the Archdiocese of Washington. We cannot helpfully participate in the decisions of the archdiocese if we are refused the most pertinent information about the archdiocese’s most urgent problem. The most urgent problem of the archdiocese is the scandal of sexual abuse, along with the culture of dissipation, corruption, and secrecy in the archbishop’s office that enabled that abuse to continue unchecked for so long.

Core Question 5: Celebration How does prayer and liturgical celebrations, especially Sunday Mass, inspire and guide your parish?

How does your prayer life and celebration of the Mass inspire and inform your personal decisions and decisions in the parish community? How does the parish invite all baptized Catholics, including our ethnic communities, youth, families and persons with disabilities and their families, into the active life of the parish, especially Sunday Mass?

  • Mass is the center of our parish life and the nourishment for the active and guiding personal prayer life of many respondents. Sunday Masses are offered throughout the weekend and always well attended. Homilies are almost always very good and edifying. Daily Mass is offered and has a devoted following. The Wednesday noon Mass for our vulnerable population has been a blessing. Our parish is accessible to and accepting of those with physical disabilities or other challenges; a few of these individuals serve during the Sunday Mass as readers and cantors/choir members.
  • The interior of the church is a beautiful space conducive to worshipping the Lord. The efforts that the priests and laity have put in for many years to make the Liturgy alive and reverent and joyful have paid huge dividends in the faith life of our parish and in evangelizing newcomers. This is a treasure that must be preserved going forward or we risk people falling away from the parish and parish life.
  • A previous pastor celebrated a Mass with healing prayers every 6 to 8 weeks and those Masses drew a large following. Subsequent pastors have integrated Anointing of the Sick into daily Mass on First Fridays to keep that focus on Christ the Healer present in parish life.
  • A previous pastor tried as often as possible to offer Confession during Sunday Mass when another priest was available. Some respondents loved that, others were concerned neither Sacrament received its due attention.
  • Regular Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament continues to be an important feature of parish life. If/when the building project is complete, 24-hour Adoration will be possible.
  • Our parish includes Mision San Andres, which is in many ways a parish unto itself. With the mission, which is based in the Catholic Charities Center, St. Andrew’s ministers to the Spanish-speaking community in our midst in an active and engaged way. The downside, however, is that we have two distinct and, unfortunately largely disconnected, communities of faith. Opportunities for connection should be a priority.

Final Question on the Holy Spirit

From your small group sharing, name one insight where you heard the voice of the Holy Spirit today?

  • We need more outreach to the people who are not active or who face obstacles to becoming active. More opportunities for young and old alike to feel a part of the parish and the Universal Church.
  • The Synod process was a wonderful opportunity for sharing & community. We felt peaceful and connected. We need to do whatever we can as a parish to provide as many of these opportunities as we can to invite and embrace as many people as we can in as many ways as it takes to do that.
  • Let us foster a sense of “We are a parish family,” a sense of identity as the people of St. Andrew Apostle Parish, but an identity that doesn’t exclude anyone — from longtime members to newcomers. The example of our sisters and brothers in faith can lead us to a deeper relationship with God and one another if we let it.
  • Pray for our priests, for vocations to ordained and consecrated life. We need good and holy leaders.

Return to Synod 2021-2023 Update Page

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