Greetings brothers and sisters in Christ. Back in 2019 I planned a pilgrimage to Italy. This was before I had ever heard of COVID (and way before I heard that I was moving to Colorado Springs!). The pilgrimage is planned for this October 12-21. I am surprised and delighted that we can still go.
We will be primarily visiting Assisi, Florence and Rome. A highlight will be the opportunity for our group alone to offer a holy hour one evening in the Sistine Chapel. Know that I keep you in prayers during this pilgrimage.
Once I return from Italy, we have plans for the priests of the diocese to spend three days together for a regular Leadership Meeting (Oct. 26-28). I ask the diocese to please pray for this event as we continue to discern God’s will for ministry in our diocese. One of the joys of my short time with you has been to spend time with our priests. I know them to be good, faithful, dedicated and well-intentioned men who clearly desire to serve God and God’s people in our diocese. Please appreciate them with me.
On Oct. 10, Pope Francis began a two-year process of a Synod of Bishops. The official title for this process is called: “Synod 2021-2023. For a synodal Church. Communion. Participation. Mission.” Pope Francis says, “by journeying together and reflecting together on the journey that has been made, the Church will be able to learn through Her experience which processes can help Her to live communion, to achieve participation, to open Herself to mission.”
The Holy Father is asking us to remember how the Spirit has guided the Church’s journey in history. We also remember that the Spirit calls us to witness to the love of God. His hope is for a participative and inclusive ecclesial process which can recognize and appreciate the richness and variety of the gifts and charism that the Spirit bestows freely upon individuals in the Church and upon the Church herself.
As I write this column, I am also reading the horrible news of more children being abused over the past 70 years by clergy and religious in the Catholic Church in France. The preparatory document for the synod states, “We are continually challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. For too long the cry of the victims has been a cry that the Church has not been able to hear sufficiently. These are deep wounds which are difficult to heal, for which forgiveness can never be asked for enough.” It is clear that one goal of this synod is that we continue to work to be a Church where the most vulnerable are safe and protected. Here in Colorado Springs, our Office of Child and Youth Protection works diligently to help us in this endeavor.
The Synod poses to each Catholic this fundamental question: A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together.” How is this “journeying together” happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to make in order to grow in our “journeying together?”
In responding to this question, we are invited to:
— Recall our experiences: What experiences of our local Church does this question call to mind?
— Re-read these experiences in greater depth: What joys did they bring? What difficulties and obstacles have they encountered? What wounds did they reveal? What insights have they elicited?
— Gather the fruits to share: Where in these experiences does the voice of the Holy Spirit resound? What is the Spirit asking of us? What are the points to be confirmed, the prospects for change, the steps to be taken? Where do we register a consensus? What paths are opening up for our local Church?
Lastly, the preparatory document states that in responding to these questions it is helpful to remember that “journeying together” occurs in two deeply interconnected ways. First, we journey together with one another as the People of God. Next, we journey together as the People of God with the entire human family. I appreciate that we are not simply looking “inward” but also “outward” to the world.
So, what does this synod mean for us? How can we participate? Our diocesan staff is beginning to address these questions. In the coming year we plan to offer ways for each person to share their insights and ideas. These might involve listening sessions where people can speak directly to me. It might also provide social media platforms in which people can offer their input.
For now — I just wanted to give our diocese a “heads up” as to what the Holy Father is asking of us. I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead, direct and guide us to better serve God and God’s people. May God bless you.