The Ninth General Synod of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which gathered input last summer from nearly 4,000 people regarding their perception of the strengths and challenges of ministry in the archdiocese, is engaged in a critical discernment phase that will help set priorities for future ministry, Archbishop Gregory Aymond said Jan. 5.
The synod will culminate on May 24 – Pentecost Sunday – at a Mass at St. Louis Cathedral when Archbishop Aymond promulgates three to five specific priorities for the archdiocese over the next several years.
Those priorities will emerge from discussions currently underway among the 12-member Synod Leadership Team and the nearly 100 members of seven Ministry Focus Teams.
Archbishop Aymond said the synod already has been a blessing to the archdiocese and will help chart a course for the local church.
“Not only will the synod give us some priorities with goals and objectives, but they will be specific and they will be measurable and they will have dates attached to them,” Archbishop Aymond said. “Besides that, the synod has given us renewed energy about the mission of Jesus Christ in the archdiocese.
The synod has given us the opportunity to reflect on that more deeply.
“I do hope out of all of this comes something different and bold and makes us better able to live our faith and be better evangelizers to others.”
In this issue of the Clarion Herald, there are three reports on the 17 consultative sessions held throughout the archdiocese from May through September and attended by nearly 4,000 people. That feedback provided much of the framework for discernment by the Synod Leadership Team and the seven Ministry Focus Teams.
Two summary reports were published in the January 10, 2015 issue and are posted here as “The Ninth General Synod Consultative Session Summary of Results.”
The first is from notes compiled by Archbishop Aymond during the sessions concerning the strengths and challenges of ministry in the archdiocese.
The other report – from the Catholic Leadership Institute, which is coordinating the synod process – offers general statistical data about the most common themes raised during those meetings.
Archbishop Aymond said he was impressed by the level of interest shown by participants in the consultative sessions.
“There are certainly things that I expected to hear and heard, and there are some things that I did not expect to hear and heard,” Archbishop Aymond said. “It was a gratifying experience for me because it certainly gave me some new ideas, renewed energy and some possible directions for the future.”
Archbishop Aymond said the information from the consultative sessions, especially the comments about the challenges faced by the archdiocese, should not be viewed as criticism but as a point of emphasis that Catholics feel strongly that the church should focus on in the future.
“It’s important that when people look at the charts they don’t draw the conclusion that some of our archdiocesan departments are not doing anything in these areas,” Archbishop Aymond said. “I think what people are saying is that they want to put an emphasis on that ministry and perhaps give a particular ministry more emphasis and more attention.”
Archbishop Aymond said the seven Ministry Focus Teams are examining the information “through the lens of their specific area.” Those areas are faith formation, vocations, social justice, worship, family and youth, evangelization and governance.
Using its own area of expertise, each focus team will develop a few suggested priorities for ministry in the archdiocese. On Feb. 9, representatives from each focus group will gather to discuss and vote on up to 10 suggested priorities for ministry, which will be forwarded to the Synod Leadership Team.
The Synod Leadership Team then will “summarize, sharpen and decide” what are the top three to five priorities for the archdiocese, Archbishop Aymond said.
The archbishop said he was grateful for the overwhelming participation in the consultative sessions and for the work of the members of the Synod Leadership Team and the Ministry Focus Teams.
“On all of those teams there is great diversity,” Archbishop Aymond said. “They are priests, deacons, religious and laity. They are representative of what is going on in the archdiocese.
I’m grateful that so many people have given so many hours to this important work.”
John Smestad, the former executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, has begun his new assignment as executive director of Pastoral Planning and Ministries. He will be responsible that “we faithfully implement the results of the synod,” Archbishop Aymond said.
“It will also be his responsibility to coordinate the collaboration that will have to exist between all the departments of the archdiocese in order for this to happen,” the archbishop said. “There will be a link between all of the ministries in a way that perhaps there has not been before.”