By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
WAXAHACHIE — A smile erupted across Bishop Edward J. Burns’s face as he stood before a crowd of 150 in the parish hall of St. Joseph Catholic Parish. He took a moment to answer the question on the minds of most of those in attendance: What’s next?
“The purpose of this catechetical session was for you all to learn more about the synod, to pray for the synod, to participate in the synod, and also to be in communion with the church throughout the process of this synod,” said Bishop Burns during the question-and-answer portion of the Diocese of Dallas’ synod catechetical session held Jan. 8 at the Waxahachie parish. “All of these things are so very vital for the success of our synod.”
The bishop further explained that these sessions build upon Pope Francis’s call for a synodal church.
“As Pope Francis has indicated, this is our journey. We are one holy, Roman Catholic Church. That really means that we are to be one in communion with each other, with the pope, with the bishop, with the pastor, with the People of God,” Bishop Burns said. “We are all doing this together. And, ultimately, we want you all to move on from here in great anticipation for participation in the synod.”
The Jan. 8 event marked the second in a series of synod catechetical and formation sessions aimed at offering the faithful more insight into both the diocesan synod and Pope Francis’ global synod on synodality. In addition to a time of catechesis and formation about the synodal process, the sessions also include praying of a multilingual rosary, small group discussions and the question-and-answer period with Bishop Burns.
“These catechetical sessions are important because they offer the opportunity for the faithful of the diocese to learn a little more about what’s happening during this synodal process,” said Lacy de la Garza, who serves as the chair of the synod preparatory commission. “Our synod meeting is in 2024, but everything leading up to that is to help bring the faithful along and bring them to be a part of this journey with us.”
The diocese plans two more catechetical sessions — Jan. 20 at St. Jude Catholic Church in Allen and Feb. 15 at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Farmers Branch.
Andre Valdivia, a member of the synod preparatory commission, encouraged the faithful to attend one of the upcoming sessions and take advantage of the opportunities they offer.
“My hope is that people really feel more connected to the Church itself, to the diocese, and to each other as Catholics,” Valdivia said. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity to put into practice what Pope Francis is saying and really bring to life that word, ‘accompaniment,’ and walking with other people.”
The diocese’s multi-year synod process officially got underway on Dec. 12, 2021 with a family festival and celebration of a Mass opening the preparatory phase. The catechetical sessions, developed by the Diocese of Dallas Ministries Office, are a part of that preparatory phase, which will also include numerous listening sessions. Those sessions will begin in March and continue for the next two years.
“We have broken down each of the 10 planned listening sessions into various topics important to the people of the church such as liturgy and the Eucharist, marriage and family, fallen away Catholics, movements and other organizations important to the Catholic Church,” Bishop Burns said. “You are going to see all kinds of different topics. It’s not all going to be the same. We will have a few common questions throughout all the sessions, but the rest of the session will deal with that specific topic.”
From those sessions, the bishop and the synod preparatory commission will gather information that will be presented during the actual synod meeting, held over several days in 2024. That meeting will be followed by the final phase of the synodal process when any resolutions approved by the bishop will be implemented. The culmination of the synod efforts will coincide with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance to San Juan Diego on Dec. 12, 2031.
Involved in the faith
Maria Reolada, a parishioner at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Richardson, said she made the trip to Ellis County to both learn more about the synod and share in the celebration of her faith with the greater diocesan community.
“I wanted to share my faith with the community, with Bishop Burns, with all the other priests and with all the children of God,” she said. “I also wanted to listen to the faith of others and learn how they are sharing the love of God with others.”
Reolada said she felt it important to participate in the synodal process because every person has an important role when it comes to the Church.
“Jesus is in every one of us, and we have to all work as one for him,” she said.
Deacon Paul Williams of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Parish in Oak Cliff attended the session as a volunteer.
“I came to help facilitate one of the small-group table discussions to really get the community of Dallas more involved in the Church and to hear how to really make that happen,” Deacon Williams said. “We attend in pews on Sundays, but really we are called to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord. How we can proclaim that gospel in our daily lives is very important to me. It’s one of the things that called me to the diaconate.”
Dr. Ally McDowell, who serves as director of development and school success for St. Joseph Catholic School in Waxahachie, said the session not only gave her an opportunity to learn more about the synod, but also about other faith communities throughout the diocese.
“Sometimes, it is hard to remember that there are many other churches besides just your home base, and I was very thankful that I was able to hear the successes of other parishes. It was also interesting to learn that some of our areas of strength were concerns of others,” she said. “By spending time in small group sessions, we were able to learn what works and does not work in other parishes and then take those ideas and hopefully utilize them in our own community.”
To learn more about the Diocese of Dallas synod or register for an upcoming catechetical session, visit www.cathdal.org/synod.