There is something big happening in the Catholic Church of Milwaukee this weekend. Have you heard about it? It is happening on Pentecost!
Pentecost is the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, often referred to as the birthday of the Catholic Church. On Pentecost weekend, June 6-8, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki is calling for a ‘New Pentecost’ with Synod 2014, a time to deliberate and prayerfully discern the priorities of the Catholic Church in southeastern Wisconsin for the next decade and beyond.
“We are approaching a great moment in history,” said Listecki. “Despite some of the challenges we’ve faced in recent years, I truly believe that for us, this will be a new Pentecost; a time of spiritual renewal to create a more inviting Church that reaches out to all people with our Lord’s message of hope, love, and forgiveness.”
An archdiocesan synod consists of a group of priests, religious and lay faithful who offer assistance to the bishop for the good of the whole diocesan community. For the past 18 months, more than 15,000 parishioners from across the archdiocese have prayed and discussed ways the Church can bring the members closer to Christ and to renew itself.
Representatives from more than 200 parishes within the archdiocese will meet at the Cousins Center in Milwaukee to focus on three pastoral areas during the Synod.
· Catholic Identity: Fostering a greater understanding of what it means to be Catholic, and how to create a love for the mystery, sacramentality and communion of the Church.
· Evangelization:Creating a missionary spirit whereby all Catholics understand the “discipleship call” to bring the Gospel message to people in their workplaces, communities and parishes.
· Stewardship: Creating an inspiration and a call for all Catholics to share their gifts and talents in a more intentional way to build the Kingdom of God here on earth.
According to Fr. Robert Weighner, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Pleasant Prairie, the Synod will help to crystalize and intensify the many good works of the Holy Spirit through the faithful of the archdiocese and bring a deeper unity and awareness of Catholic identity; and hosting the Synod on Pentecost weekend demonstrates the importance of the mission.
“When we see how the disciples were transformed on the day of Pentecost, we get at the deepest reason for the synod,” said Weighner. “The disciples were transformed into ‘true disciples’ on that day, full of courage to proclaim Christ to all the world. This was the ‘eu-angelos’, the sending forth of the good news—the evangelization that marked the early Church.”
Weighner hopes that in understanding the three areas of the mission, the faithful will come to understand and appreciate the importance of committing themselves more and more to building up God’s Kingdom in these ways.
“Once we understand who we are, we cannot help but take that message out into the world,” he said. “As St. Paul, the great Apostle, said, ‘woe to me if I do not preach the good news.’ The Synod drew input from the grass roots, and another hope is that it will draw more and more people to not stand on the sideline, but to get involved in their faith.
With the last Synod taking place in 1987, Weighner believes that this synod is an inspiration of the Holy Spirit given to Archbishop Listecki.
“He has a clear understanding of his three-fold obligation as shepherd of this flock,” he explained. “First to teach the faithful about Christ. Second, to ensure that the sacraments are understood and that we are encouraging a strong sacramental life among the faithful. Third, to administer the archdiocese in such a way that we flourish, because people are willing to share the gifts that God has given them. I think that, because the archbishop has a clear understanding of these duties, he felt compelled to give impetus to them through the calling of a synod.”
As a member of the Synod Preparatory Commission, and Evangelization Commission Leader at St. Anne, Margie Mandli is excited for this period of renewal, revitalization and refreshed way of doing things.
“This is a great time-we are a Church on the move,” she said, adding. “Truly this is a time for us to come together to spread the Gospel message with joy and leave the world a better place for future generations. In the end, it’s up to each of us and how we answer this call to grow in our Catholic Faith, to reach out to our neighbors in need and to give of ourselves to build our Church.”
As one of the delegates for the upcoming Synod, Fr. William Hayward, pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii in Kenosha, is pleased with the amount of prayer, openness and discernment involved in the process.
“We are not coming together to rubber stamp what Church officials or those in previous encounters have said,” he explained. “We are coming to listen to what the people of the archdiocese of Milwaukee have said and where the Holy Spirit leads us.”
Hayward expects that more collaborative ministry will occur within Kenosha County following the Synod. When he first arrived in Kenosha in 2001, four of the area parishes still had two priests and one had three.
“Now we have priests serving two parishes, or one priest working at St. Joseph Academy and a parish,” he said. “And the collaboration isn’t just due to a priest shortage, it is really important to share missions within the area. We have some of that already, as one of our missions is to educate and teach; and there has been great collaboration within the Catholic schools. We need to focus now on, how do we as adults form in our faith collaboratively, and how to evangelize collaboratively. That will be the touchstone of Kenosha. How we can become stronger in our commitment to Christ and the Church community. We will see more of this with good direction of the Synod.”
Synod Key Facts
· Public Mass on Friday, June 6 at 7:00 p.m. at St. John Cathedral
· Discernment and deliberations to take place among hundreds of delegates, June 7-8
· Synodal Declaration outlining the vision for the archdiocese to be issued by Archbishop Listecki in September 2014
· Eight missionary areas will be discussed in depth including: the liturgy, cultural diversity, evangelization, formation, Catholic social teaching, marriage and family, leadership and stewardship
· The diocese spreads across 10 counties in southeastern Wisconsin
· Kenosha is considered District 1 accounting for ten parishes
· More than 110 individuals representing all 10 parishes in Kenosha participated in a District Gathering in March to pray and provide input that will be used in the Synod