Parish Synod Summary Report

 

What was in the Parish Synod Summary Report?

The Summary Report contained concise answers to the Fundamental Question and five Core Questions provided that encompassed the breadth of the comments received from all listening sessions notes and surveys.

 

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?

The Eucharistic celebration is the focus of our journeying together. A good and holy pastor as shepherd helps us to be more open to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Pastor’s emphasis on relationship and accompaniment enables us to be able to follow the Holy Spirit’s prompting to accompany others. Active laity that bring in people to the community and provide support for them is very important, and the level of participation amongst our members is a huge indicator of parish vitality.

The witness of our many young families, students, and accessibility for those with physical disabilities or other challenges attests to the ability of our parish to provide for and nurture different populations within the community. There is room for everyone to be as active as they wish.

The sense of invitation, welcome, family, unity, and mutual encouragement before the pandemic was a strength for the parish but is more challenging now as some have withdrawn from active parish life. The parish adapted throughout the pandemic to ensure continued focus on the Eucharist and Sacraments and offers a variety of opportunities that keep the flame alive for many, but the hesitancy of others to return to full participation has left a void. We yearn to return to where were before the pandemic, poised for greater things.

Importantly, we must ask not only how we are journeying together, but to where? The Church must live out core Gospel values and the virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Courage.

 

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 hearts, actively listen and without pre-judgment to all who are in different places spiritually, God provides opportunities for us to learn and grow from each other. Many of our small group settings, including those within the Synod process, have been good opportunities for that. Interactions with others when we gather for Mass is a major opportunity to hear God speaking through others. The elderly, those who are disabled, and many with a variety of cultural backgrounds serve in various capacities for our liturgies, But, God also speaks to us through the voices that are absent from our midst, especially during the pandemic. The homebound and those in nursing homes who are unable to actively participate in our celebrations and activities as they once were are now at risk for exclusion. In addition, we need to be sensitive to potential perceived divisions across communities within our parish, even to our parish mission; to the extent that we can erase them, we unify the Body of Christ. To bring that unity, we need to listen more than we talk.

The pandemic has made visible the needs of so many. These are voices we need to heed, and the needs of those here in our community are great.

 

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?

There are a number of things that hinder some in our community from speaking up. Some do not have confidence that those in authority will listen to them. Others have trouble articulating their views because of language or cultural barriers. For others, the appropriate channels to convey their views to the parish and society is not clear. Our Catholic views can sometimes be painted as prejudiced, judicial, or even hateful, and some in our community fear such a label. Even within the Church, speaking up can be difficult because of divisions that exist within it.

But opportunities do exist and their importance is recognized. Communal sharing in the parish context or in friendship groups formed through parish interactions enables many parishioners to speak up freely and courageously, sharing one’s stories, worries, hopes, and pain in a safe environment. Providing opportunities for general social interaction with opportunities for deeper sharing has been successful at the parish. 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, appreciated and valued for the sincere opening it was.

Throughout the Synod process, a variety of viewpoints on many issues even within one Catholic parish were clearly demonstrated.

 

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?

We participate by participating; we have to come to the meal to be fed. Those involved in ministries and volunteer groups within the parish will always feel a greater sense of participation. Sharing participation begins with a Pastor who knows his flock and invites that participation, supporting the apostolates and devotions and service opportunities in which we find community as parish members. When knowing his flock, a Pastor is able to give specific encouragement and exhortation 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.

Outreach is important, and while some will say they don’t know about opportunities to participate, others just need to be asked. Some lack confidence that they can serve God and others in a more profound way. Some, including parents of young children, or those working multiple jobs or caring for an infirm family members are just too overwhelmed to participate. Others might be overwhelmed by the size of the parish and don’t see their role. The need to foster connection is critical for the increasing and retaining of our members.

We lack clear opportunities for participation through youth and young adult ministries, critical needs for our future. Other areas for development include activities for women, young moms, and couples and service opportunities.

 

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 Pastor is responsible for making decisions at the Parish level. A Pastoral Council is advisory to the Pastor. We do not currently have an active Pastoral Council due to the change in pastors. The parish wants to and should be better informed about the Pastoral Council, Finance Council, Liturgy Committee, Capital Campaign, and other structures; knowledge empowers decisions. Due to the multiple recent changes in Pastor, some large decisions seem to be postponed.

The Synod process has been useful in gathering perspectives across the parish and all in the parish community have been invited and encouraged to provide input in multiple ways. This can be carried forward by a pastor who sincerely asks for, and is open to, the thoughts of his flock. Additional periodic listening sessions focused on particular demographics (e.g., families with young children, young adults, married couples, retired people) could continue to empower people to share insights and perspectives that enable them to help inform the Pastor and thus participate in decision-making.

 

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 nourishment for the active and guiding personal prayer life of many respondents. Sunday Masses are offered throughout the weekend and always well attended. Daily Mass is offered and has a devoted following. An additional Wednesday noon Mass offered for our vulnerable population during the pandemic was a blessing. Opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration have provided an environment where prayer in community for specific intentions has been encouraged, and this was sustained even outdoors at the height of the pandemic when our churches were closed. Opportunities for Confession have been offered well beyond what is offered in most parishes. 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.

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, Saint Andrew’s ministers to the Spanish-speaking community in our midst in an active and engaged way. We have two distinct and largely disconnected communities of faith with potential for enriching both through more clear interaction.

Return to 2021-2023 Synod Update Page

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