By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
When Catholics in the Diocese of Dallas gather Dec. 12 to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, their prayers will carry a special intention this year as Bishop Edward J. Burns has designated that day as the start of plans for a diocesan synod.
In a pastoral letter released Feb. 19, Bishop Burns announced the synod process and laid out plans for a 10-year process that will culminate in a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to San Juan Diego. A diocesan synod itself is a special gathering of clergy and faithful for the purpose of offering assistance to the bishop in setting the direction for ministry in the diocese for the future.
While the Dec. 12 celebration remains months away, the preliminary work for the synod is well under way. In May, Bishop Burns appointed Jason Deuterman, diocesan director of the Office of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries, to serve as the chairman for the Diocesan Synod Preparatory Commission, a body of individuals that includes both clergy and laypeople who are charged with the development of this process as well as assisting the bishop in organizing and preparing for the synod.
“I am grateful to have Jason Deuterman serve as chairperson of the Synod Preparatory Commission and am confident that his experience in ministry, love of the Church and knowledge of the Diocese of Dallas will ensure a successful synod process,” Bishop Burns said.
Deuterman said his hope is that the whole process will be wrapped in prayer, pulling from Bishop Burns’ episcopal motto, “Pray with Confidence.”
“In listening to him speak, I find myself filled with hope going into this process because Bishop Burns’ passion for the synod comes from his rootedness in prayer and belief that the Holy Spirit will guide this process,” Deuterman said. “If we pray for the Holy Spirit to move in this synodal process, we cannot help but move toward the fullness of what the Lord wants to offer us.”
Deuterman has served as the director of the Office of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries since 2014. He also recently served as a member of Bishop Burns’ Evangelical Task Force. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in English and received his master’s degree in theological studies from the University of Dallas.
His new role as chairman for the preparatory commission is not Deuterman’s first in assisting with a synod. In 2017, Deuterman oversaw the creation of a survey to gather ideas from the youth and young adult community within the Diocese of Dallas — both Catholic and not — after Pope Francis called for a Synod of Bishops on youth in 2018. The information was used to help determine needs and plans for the diocese as well as was shared with organizers of the synod of bishops.
As the chairperson, Deuterman said he will lead the preparatory commission which will among other duties create a synodal directory, an official document which will contain the composition of the synod, the norms by which synodal members will conduct themselves, and a listing of various offices as well as what questions and potential resolutions that will be discussed during the synod.
The synod process coordinated by the commission will include holding listening sessions in the parishes of the diocese, and time will be spent focusing on the “spiritual, pastoral and temporal renewal” of the diocese.
“Bishop Burns wants to ensure that anyone who wants to have a voice in this process is able to,” Deuterman said. “It’s important to the bishop to gather the input from as many people as possible in order to find out what is truly important and on the hearts and minds of the people.”
Echoing Bishop Burns’ pastoral letter, Deuterman said now is a time of Apostolic Mission.
“When we think about the evangelical thrust within the Diocese of Dallas, the synod is a perfect opportunity for parishes, schools, and church-serving organizations to move from maintenance to mission, to recognize that without the proclamation of the Good News at the source of the Christian life, and the action that is inspired because of it, that the Christian life is doomed to sterility,” Deuterman said. “The goal of this synod is to help our bishop to discern clear, executable strategic initiatives and goals that will usher in the next decade and beyond of building the Kingdom of God in the seven counties of the Diocese of Dallas.”
In his Feb. 19 pastoral letter, titled “The Journey Through Lent, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost — A Post-Pandemic Pastoral Plan for the Diocese of Dallas,” Burns outlined a vision to renew the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Dallas after the historic COVID-19 pandemic.
“In light of the historic nature of this pandemic,” the bishop wrote, “I believe an equally historic response is required, a response that looks toward a post-pandemic, apostolic church.”
The starting point for the pastoral letter is a reflection on the journey through Lent, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost.
It offers a review of the state of the diocese over the years, including his own four years as its shepherd, and covers some of the bishop’s thoughts “on the direction of the diocese going forward.”
“This movement forward requires both input and support from the whole local church,” he said.
The multiday synod event will take place in 2024 and resolutions approved at that gathering will be implemented in the diocese in the following years.
“This is a time of tremendous opportunity. This is not a time for going back to business as usual, but rather forward to fresh initiatives and bold witness to the enduring love of Jesus,” Bishop Burns wrote. “This is a time to renew our faith in him and to strike out ‘into the deep water’ with trust that the Lord is with us in the boat, battered as it may be by many headwinds, yet still continuing toward the destiny to which he calls us.”
The last diocesan synod was called in 1934 by Bishop Joseph P. Lynch, who was the third bishop of Dallas and the longest serving bishop in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States.
To learn more about the Diocese of Dallas synod, visit cathdal.org/synod.