The 9th General Synod of the Archdiocese of New Orleans has been picking up steam. Can you give us an update on what’s been happening and where we’re going?
I want to first express my profound gratitude to everyone involved in the discernment process. As you remember, we began the synod last April with the intention of discerning God’s vision and priorities for our local church over the next three to five years. We are prayerfully attempting, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern God’s priorities. The priorities will be announced on Pentecost Sunday, May 24, at a Mass at St. Louis Cathedral.
What has happened so far?
An incredible amount. As most people already know, more than 3,800 people attended the 17 consultative sessions we held last year throughout the archdiocese. From what we’ve been told, that’s the best level of participation of any diocese that has done a similar process. That tells me the church is alive and well in New Orleans. All of the feedback we received from those sessions – what the archdiocese is doing well right now, what it could be doing better and what it’s not doing but should be doing – was synthesized and given to two major groups, working both independently and together.
Can you explain that?
Yes. We formed seven Ministry Focus Teams, composed of about 10 individuals each, to evaluate the information. We also gave the information to the 12-member Synod Leadership Team, which will have the ultimate task of discerning the final three or five priorities, along with measurable goals and objectives, that will be promulgated on Pentecost Sunday.
The seven Ministry Focus Teams looked at the material through the prism of their own target area. The seven ministry groups included Education and Formation; Evangelization; Governance and Finance; Marriage, Family and Youth; Sacraments and Worship; Social Justice and Outreach; and Vocations. The Synod Leadership Team also has been meeting to discern and pull together the many threads of ministry that will lead to a “unifying theme.”
The groups are still meeting. What are the next few steps?
The Ministry Focus Teams each have come up with three to five priorities for ministry in their respective areas. Now, those more than two dozen priorities with comments will be given to the Synod Leadership Team for their prayer and discernment. My hope is that out of all of these discussions, something bold and courageous will develop to challenge us to live out God’s call fully in our local church. I can’t talk about specific priorities yet because the Synod Leadership Team is continuing its work, but I’m very excited to see the direction this is taking.
So the plan is getting close?
Yes, the Ministerial Council, which is a group of directors of various archdiocesan departments and offices, met last Tuesday to provide its input. The Synod Leadership Team met for an entire day on Feb. 26 to come up with a unifying theme that will guide us over the next three to five years, and then it will begin to look at narrowing down the many priorities to no fewer than three and no more than five, encompassing the ministry of the entire archdiocese.
Then, on March 5, the Synod Leadership Team and the seven Ministry Focus Teams – about 100 people – will meet together to give an update on the process. It will be a chance for the Focus Team members to provide more input. This will also be a chance to develop another list of ministry ideas that can easily be done but don’t have to necessarily be written in the final plan. A lot of suggestions from the consultative sessions can easily be implemented without a great deal of planning.
The Synod Leadership Team will gather for two more all-day meetings – on March 11 and April 23 – to continue to refine the priorities, goals and objectives. Then the plan will be promulgated on May 24.
And then what?
In many ways, our work will just be beginning. We can’t have this nice plan and place it in a nice, comfortable spot on a bookshelf, never to be opened again. It will take the work of every person involved in ministry in the archdiocese to become fully engaged so that the plan may bear fruit. We’ve already set up an implementation office, directed by John Smestad Jr., whose responsibility will be to make sure everyone involved in ministry is rowing in the same direction.
I would ask everyone to continue praying for those who are involved in discerning God’s vision and priorities for our local church. May the Holy Spirit who inflamed the apostles at Pentecost 2,000 years ago inflame our hearts and minds today.
Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent firstname.lastname@example.org.