Synod implementation will start at grass roots

The Ninth General Synod of the Archdiocese of New Orleans was promulgated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond last summer, and now the office charged with guiding the implementation of the synod’s five priorities and 21 goals over the next three to ve years is encouraging parishes to give esh to the plan.

“In order to have a truly game-changing and lasting impact, you’ve got to have a very rm foundation,” said John Smestad Jr., executive director of the Of ce of Pastoral Planning and Ministries. “This is not just going to be parish staffs or DREs (directors of religious education) doing all of this. It’s really about the ‘time and talent’ pieces of stewardship and the grass roots saying that these are the priorities for our local church.”

Transforming the synod goals for ministry into something beyond lofty platitudes will take the concentrated efforts of both parish and archdiocesan staff and Catholics in the pew, Smestad said.

Since the document was promulgated last summer, Smestad has focused on getting every parish in the archdiocese to appoint a synod coordinator, whose responsibility will be to act as the liaison with his office.

As of last week, about 70 parishes had appointed a point person, Smestad said, and he expects most parishes will be in place in time for one of four regional orientation meetings scheduled for later this month.

Orientation meetings set
Pastors and synod coordinators have been invited to attend one of these meetings, which will start at 7 p.m.:
Feb. 22, Mary Queen of Peace in Mandeville; Feb. 23, St. Clement of Rome in Metairie; Feb. 29, Visitation of Our Lady in Marrero; or
March 1, Corpus Christi-Epiphany in New Orleans.

The purpose of the orientation sessions is to review the synod priorities, goals and timelines and offer suggestions on increasing the number of parishioners who would be involved in the implementation process.

Smestad also will use the meetings to hand out a self-assessment survey that each parish can use to determine its strengths and challenges in relation to the synod goals.

The reason for that is simple, Smestad said. Some parishes might be very far along in sponsoring strong programs for marriage and family life, while others may have needs in that area.

Parishes will decide
It would not make sense to have every parish try to move in lock-step with one another, but to assess where its biggest challenges are and focus on those first. That can only be done if the parish looks carefully at its current situation, he said.

“This makes sense because the synod came from the grass roots, and the implementation should be the responsibility of the grass roots in a lot of ways,” Smestad said. “We as the archdiocesan staff can roll out and provide the resources and suggestions to meet certain goals, but some will be done sooner than others. That’s just the nature of the beast.

“The parish will decide where it wants to begin, especially if it’s already doing some of the goals. If we were to roll out the goals of increasing opportunities for reconciliation and support for married couples and a parish says, ‘We’re already doing that,’ they might be asking the question, ‘What should we be working on?’”

Smestad said the idea of appointing a synod implementation coordinator is to give the pastor a person with whom to discuss ideas, set timelines and get things done.

Of the coordinators appointed thus far, many are either members of the parish’s pastoral council or permanent deacons. That means, Smestad said, that they are well-versed in the inner workings of the parish and can assist the pastor in the process.

“We’re going to send communications to both of these people so that hopefully they can support one another,” Smestad said. “The orientation meetings will give all of these people a great chance to network and offer each other encouragement. They will be able to share their challenges as well as successes.”

Smestad said he doesn’t know what the time commitment will be for parish leaders, because much will depend on what the parish is already doing.

Smestad also has appointed about 50 people to various “task forces” that will analyze more closely the 21 major goals of the synod. Those task forces include members of the archdiocesan staff with responsibilities for that area.

Each of those task forces has met at least once, and some have met more than once.

Smestad will provide regular updates on the synod process in the Clarion Herald.

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