In the summer of 2015, Archbishop Gregory Aymond promulgated five priorities with 21 goals under the theme, “Encountering Jesus, Witnessing with Joy,” as the culmination of a consultative process for the Ninth General Synod of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
After months of additional work and consultation, the archdiocese published, in October 2016, an implementation plan on how and when we could hope to achieve the goals and priorities of the synod.
Parishes identified synod implementation coordinators, orientations were held by deanery for those individuals, and parishes were invited to self-assess their own strengths and areas needing attention in light of the synod goals.
The offices and agencies of the archdiocese embarked on numerous projects to make available training and resources to our parish communities and other institutions, in order that they might pick and choose what might best help them with their most pressing synod goals.
Highlights of these accomplishments include:
Form Welcoming Communities Who Celebrate Our Unity in Diversity
➤ Established an archdiocesan chapter of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians for training and resourcing.
➤ Established an annual morning of reflection for lay liturgical ministers.
➤ Added a liturgy track to the Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference.
➤ Published a curated list of homily resources for clergy.
➤ Published educational articles on the nature of a homily.
➤ Scheduled formation opportunities for those responsible for planning liturgy in our Catholic schools and Parish Schools of Religion.
➤ Contracted with eCatholic to enable parishes to easily and affordably create a comprehensive parish website where needed.
➤ Published a mailer kit for parishes to use in inviting all residents in their geographical boundaries to the parish.
➤ Established an archdiocesan pastoral outreach to those identifying as LGBT.
➤ Reorganized and provided training for the Archdiocesan Commission on Persons with Disabilities.
➤ Published a guide for parishes on how to be evangelistic and present to nearby civic fairs and festivals.
➤ Continued media placement of evangelizing messages through movie theaters, billboards and other media.
Embrace Christ in Every Family, Parish, and Ministry
➤ Published an annual calendar of programs of the Archdiocesan Retreat Center and the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center.
➤ Expanded the recruitment and training program for spiritual directors.
➤ Published resources for enhancing prayer in sacramental marriage.
➤ Established a monthly resource bulletin to parish catechetical leaders.
➤ Published a curated list of Bible study and multi-generational faith formation models.
➤ Expanded pastoral care, faith formation, sacraments and organized prayer opportunities in Christopher Homes facilities, Catholic nursing homes and prison ministries.
➤ Continued scheduling of archdiocesan-wide confession nights in September and Lent.
Minister to Families, Youth and Young Adults
➤ Expanded offerings and enhanced publicity for catechist and youth minister certification courses.
➤ Published a parish family life coordinator manual and launched family life coordinator training/networking gatherings in
➤ Expanded the Christ in the City young adult program to the northshore.
➤ Established a local chapter of Young Catholic Professionals for young adults.
➤ Implemented the new particular law on marriage preparation in the archdiocese.
➤ Sponsored formation workshops on the exhortation of Pope Francis, “Amoris Laetitia.”
➤ Formed a speakers’ bureau on family life topics.
➤ Published a brochure explaining the annulment process.
Prepare Servant Leaders for the Church
➤ Formed a coordinating committee of representatives from all local Catholic lay ministry formation programs for better collaboration and coordination.
➤ Launched training/networking gatherings for parish vocation ministry leaders.
➤ Published resources for parish vocation promotion efforts.
➤ Promoted the Magnificat House of Discernment.
➤ Enhanced publicity for the “Come and See” weekends of St. Joseph Seminary College.
➤ Created “witness videos” by priests, seminarians, religious and parents of the same for promoting religious vocations.
➤ Established a new preparation class for the permanent diaconate.
Be a Voice and Witness for Catholic Social Teaching
➤ Launched training/networking gatherings and a comprehensive resource manual for parish social justice ministry leaders.
➤ Rejuvenated the implementation committee for Archbishop Hughes’ “Made in the Image and Likeness of God, Pastoral Letter on
➤ Continued scheduling of racial sobriety workshops around the archdiocese.
➤ Established a monthly respect life resource bulletin and a resource manual for parish respect life ministry coordinators.
➤ Published a comprehensive respect life resource page on www.nolacatholic.org.
➤ Published monthly respect life articles for use in parish bulletins.
➤ Established a Catholic Medical Association with a focus on respect life education for healthcare professionals.
➤ Continued promotion of the USCCB “Faithful Citizenship” resource.
➤ Continued support of local pro-life pregnancy resource centers.
➤ Established active pro-life advocacy, educational, and prayerful efforts regarding the new Planned Parenthood facility.
➤ Established a team to educate, raise awareness and combat human trafficking.
➤ Implemented “ban the box” on archdiocesan employment applications.
➤ Advocated for criminal justice and immigration legislative and executive reforms.
In addition to the initiatives taken by archdiocesan offices and agencies and offered to our parishes, schools and other institutions, the synod implementation plan also made many recommendations that could be implemented rather simply by parishes and yet would greatly advance the priorities and goals. These suggestions for parishes included:
➤ Establish a parish welcoming/hospitality ministry focused on new parishioners.
➤ Actively invite new Catholics received into the church at Easter to participation in a parish ministry or service.
➤ Appoint a young adult to the parish Pastoral Council and parish Finance Council.
➤ Intentionally include single adults in parish outreach and ministries.
➤ Hold an annual celebration of the parish’s patron saint.
➤ Send more catechists to the annual Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference.
➤ Increase the availability of confessions in the parish beyond Saturday afternoons.
➤ Increase the availability of eucharistic adoration.
➤ Offer adult faith formation opportunities on a regular basis.
➤ Promote the programs of the Archdiocesan Retreat Center and Archdiocesan Spirituality Center.
➤ Hold a multi-generational faith formation event annually.
➤ Encourage clergy to invite those who are divorced to active involvement in parish life.
➤ Schedule an annual event to promote parish ministries and services.
➤ Identify candidates for lay ecclesial ministry.
➤ Appoint a parish respect life coordinator
Finally, to increase the chances of the synod goals having a positive, long-term impact on the life of our local Church, every parish was asked to identify and appoint coordinators for evangelization, family life, social justice and vocations, to complement the existing leadership of clergy and parish staff. The relevant archdiocesan offices could regularly support, train and resource these individuals and other interested collaborators as a way to foster continued parish renewal far into the future. As of this writing, 63 parishes have appointed these four ministry coordinators, and we strongly encourage the remaining parishes to do so, so that the benefits of formation and resourcing in these areas can be effectively shared with every parish.
The synod already has sparked renewal in our archdiocesan offices and agencies as they have been inspired with new, fresh and bold goals to pursue, as well in our parishes as they work to address their most significant needs as called for by the synod priorities and goals. Even with much having been accomplished so far, though, there is still much to be done.
Every parish, school, and institution is called to implement the synod because we together believe that the Holy Spirit inspired these priorities and goals voiced by the people of God of this archdiocese.
May we continue to be faithful to the call to encounter Christ and witness with joy.
John Smestad Jr., is executive director of Pastoral Planning and Ministries for the archdiocese. His office can be reached at (504) 861-6294 or email@example.com. The complete synod implementation plan is available, both in English and Spanish, at http://www.nolacatholic.org/encountering-Jesus-witnessing-with-joy