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A Great Step Forward: Fifteen Faculty Members Serve at Synod 16

by MOSAIC Editorial Team

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Close to four hundred Catholics from across the archdiocese came together for Synod 16 at the Westin Book Cadillac during the weekend of November 18-20.

The purpose of the event was for attendees to discuss ways to re-invigorate the spirit of evangelization within the Archdiocese of Detroitfor the archdiocese to become more outwardly mission-focused instead of inwardly maintenance-focusedand to advise Archbishop Allen Vigneron on ways to carry out this ambitious ideal.

The synod took as one of its themes an expression of Pope Francis: that the people of the archdiocese are to become a band of missionary disciples who are dedicated to pursuing personal holiness and spreading the love of Christ throughout families, communities, and the culture at large.

Who were these Synod 16 participants? They were parish lay leaders, ministry leaders, bishops, priests, and religious community members. They were joined by small group facilitators and theological experts who helped to guide the discussions that took place among the table group members throughout the weekend.

Sacred Heart was blessed to have fifteen members of its faculty volunteer their time and skills at Synod 16.

Fr. Pierre Ingram, CC, assistant professor of theology, says that from his vantage-point as an advisor, the synod was an excellent exercise in ecclesial listening." He says that he and the participants were encouraged by the organizers, and especially by Archbishop Vigneron, to ask ourselves not what our personal opinions were on a given topic, but how the Holy Spirit was moving through the various propositions we were discussing.

During the synod's four sessions of small-group discussions, I saw a remarkable convergence toward greater unity and consensus, despite a wide initial diversity of perspectives. Father Ingram believes that the extensive process of consultation that led up to the Synod, and the involvement of such a broad cross-section of the people of God, have laid the foundation for the kind of DNA change' that the archbishop sees as necessary for the new evangelization to succeed in our corner of the vineyard.

Msgr. Daniel Trapp, graduate spiritual director and associate professor, agrees with Father Ingram that the years of prayerful preparation leading up to the synod paved the way for its success. My strongest impression of the synod was of the grace that was palpable during the preparation and during the synod itself, he says.

Monsignor Trapp especially cites the value of the much needed Mass of Pardon that was celebrated on October 7. In this penitential ceremony, Archbishop Vigneron and the people of the archdiocese asked for God's forgiveness for sins against the culture the archdiocese may have committed throughout its history. I'm hoping for a new openness to the Holy Spirit and outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the main results of the synod, Monsignor Trapp says.

The fruits of Synod 16 had begun before it started, faculty member Dr. Janet Smith says. She believes along with her Sacred Heart colleagues that the synod's incredibly well-conceived and executed preparation was of utmost value, leading to a special openness of the participants to allow the Holy Spirit to guide their very receptive hearts. (Archbishop Michael Byrnes, former auxiliary bishop of Detroit and vice rector of Sacred Heart, spearheaded the synod planning, read about him here.)

If the other members were as well prepared as those at my table, it was clear that there are many program—such as Alpha, Discovering Christ, St. Paul Street Evangelization and Operation Olive Branchthat already are being utilized to great advantage by many parishes of the archdiocese, Dr. Smith says. Many tools for the new evangelization already exist and likely more parishes will adopt them because of the spiritual energy and renewed direction generated by the synod.

Professor of Theology Fr. John McDermott, SJ, believes that a foremost significance of Synod 16 is that it got us to pray and talk together about our duty to proclaim the gospel to a world in pain and hungering for meaning. He maintains that the salvation of all humanity is at stake and that God's love has to penetrate our hearts, and that means living not for our self-fulfillment but in self-giving love for Him, our fellow Christians, and all men.

Father McDermott offers this prayer in union with the prayers of the synod members: May the breath of the Holy Spirit enliven and impel the Church in Detroit to preach and live the gospel with joy and effective power.

Other faculty members who volunteered their theological expertise as advisors at Synod 16 were Bishop-designate Gerard Battersby, Fr. Stephen Burr, Dr. Patricia Cooney-Hathaway, Dr. Eduardo Echeverria, Dr. Robert Fastiggi, Fr. Daniel Jones, Dr. Daniel Keating, Fr. Timothy Laboe, Msgr. Todd Lajiness, Dr. Ralph Martin, Fr. Robert Spezia, and Dr. Peter Williamson.

Dr. Daniel Keating, professor of theology, believes that the primary fruit of the synod will be the common conviction that we are called to mission and are determined to walk ahead together, following the lead of the Holy Spirit, while Dr. Smith expresses that the skills and virtues of servant leader Archbishop Vigneron will ensure that Synod 16 will lead to new energy and zeal for Catholics of the archdiocese as we deepen our faith and share it with others.

There is a long way to go and many practical steps that need to be discerned and taken, says Dr. Ralph Martin, Sacred Heart's director of graduate programs in the New Evangelization, but what a great step forward!

MOSAIC Editorial Team

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a Christ-centered Catholic community of faith and higher learning committed to forming leaders who will proclaim the good news of Christ to the people of our time. As a leading center of the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart serves the needs of the Archdiocese of Detroit and contributes to the mission of the universal Church.