By Andre Valdivia
Special to The Texas Catholic
Bishop Edward J. Burns has called for a synod to take place in 2024, with the preparatory phase beginning formally on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. So you may be wondering…why start all of the commotion now, almost three years before the synod meeting itself?
Starting on Dec.12, you and I will officially be in what is known as the synod’s preparatory phase. The following two years will be the moment for Dallas-area Catholics to play their pivotal role in the upcoming synod. Because the focus of the 2024 meeting will be on developing a “pastoral plan…setting the direction for ministry in the Diocese for the future,” it will require the laity’s participation to express the direction they feel ministry in the Diocese should take. Bishop Burns explains that the synod meeting will rely on “many recommendations and suggestions of the faithful…given to the synod body, who will consult and vote on resolutions to be presented to the…bishop for implementation in the Diocese.”
As such, you are invited to help shape these recommendations by participating in listening sessions hosted every other month in parishes across the diocese starting in early 2022. For each listening session, a different topic will be the focus of the event (for instance, Catholic education, Family Life, Vocations, etc). And at each session the bishop will want to hear how the church has supported you, and how the church can better support you with regard to the listening session topic. Your contributions will directly shape the recommendations and suggestions that will be discussed at the 2024 synod meeting.
But these listening sessions will also achieve something else. The bishop envisions these listening sessions as a significant milestone in the faith life of Dallas-area Catholics, principally because they will offer us the opportunity to hear from each other. Since all Catholics are invited to take part in each listening session, the full diversity of experiences that make up our Diocese will show up and lend their voice to each of these events. These are a unique opportunity to pray with, hear from, and commune with brothers and sisters in Christ whom we may have never had the chance to hear from before. They promise to be an enriching experience
We are blessed to live in a Diocese with a rich diversity in thought, demographics, age, and life experiences. With over 70 parishes spanning from Greenville, to Denison, to Corsicana, to Irving, to Waxahachie, the Diocese is home to numerous ministries that operate in and outside of parishes, from The 635, to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, to In My Shoes, to Young Catholic Professionals, to the Knights of Columbus. Masses are regularly celebrated and ministries serve Dallas-area Catholics in more than 10 different languages. The pastoral activity of the church reaches the life of the parishioner in numerous ways, through the administering of the sacraments, through the education of children, through evangelization to the disaffected, through assisting the destitute, etc. Bishop Burns desires to hear directly from Catholics representing all of these entities that make up our Diocese.
How else can you help?
Beyond attending these sessions, we ask for your support in two specific ways to make the next two years a success.
First, please pray for the synod. Within the next month, your parish will receive copies of the diocesan prayer for the synod. If you can incorporate it into your normal prayer routine, this will help the synod bear fruit. The synodal process is one in which the Holy Spirit speaks through the laity. This cannot happen without lots of prayer!
Second, please invite others to participate. When you hear about an upcoming listening session, tell your family, your friends. Make it an event where you come and participate. But, most critically, reach out to those who do not come to mass, and who do not actively participate in the life of the church. In calling this synod, Bishop Burns states that “over the past four years…the Diocese may have become stagnant and our pastoral practices became lukewarm…As I look at the church in a post-pandemic experience…I also see the need for spiritual renewal and regeneration.” This spiritual renewal and regeneration will come if we step out of our comfort zones, and engage those who we know need the love of Christ and His Church. Please invite those you know who have grown apart from the Church. Their voice needs to be heard too.
More information is forthcoming, but I am personally excited about the upcoming events of the next two years. These events will be the fertile soil upon which the Diocese begins her spiritual renewal and regeneration. Don’t miss them, and stay tuned!
Andre Valdivia is a member of the Synod Preparatory Commission.