Prayerful sharing highlights first pre-synod prayer, listening events

| October 9, 2019 | 0 Comments

Father Bob White, pastor of St. Victoria in Victoria, got a front row seat to the first Pre-Synod Prayer and Listening Event, which was held at his parish about 25 miles southwest of Minneapolis and drew 310 people from as far away as the Twin Cities.

The Sept. 24 gathering ­— the first of 20 planned across the archdiocese this fall and winter — “reflected the full spectrum of the Church. … And there’s room for everybody,” Father White said.

Watching the respectful exchange of ideas and opinions “reminded me that we are a big tent,” Father White said. “I think there was a lot of passion. Faith is important to people, and their identity as a Catholic is important to them. It came through with everything that was said up there. There was a lot of energy and life and emotion and excitement.”

The three-hour evening began with Archbishop Bernard Hebda stressing the importance of prayer and guidance of the Holy Spirit. He also thanked people for coming to help him prayerfully discern pastoral needs of the archdiocese in preparation for a 2021 archdiocesan synod. The synod will further clarify directions the archdiocese must go in the five to 10 years after that large gathering on Pentecost weekend, May 21-23, 2021.

After prayer and small group meetings at the Sept. 24 gathering, more than 20 people who had submitted their names were invited to come to a microphone in the center of the worship space to share their comments with the entire group, including Archbishop Hebda.

Some praised what they see in their parishes and the Church. One man read a list of things he likes in his parish, including music ministry, a men’s group, sharing meals with newcomers to the parish and events for fathers and sons. Others expressed hurt over feeling excluded and unwelcome in the church, because of sexual orientation or other reasons.

Through it all, Archbishop Hebda listened quietly and thanked everyone who came forward.

There will be a lot of information for the archbishop to take in. Beyond the spoken comments at the end, participants spent time writing down their thoughts either on paper or on their phones to download to a website created to receive what they had to say.

Every response will be reviewed, as will responses in all 20 events and about a dozen additional prayer and listening sessions with particular focus groups.

An event held just four days after the gathering in St. Victoria drew 260 people to St. Michael in St. Michael. Upcoming events include 6-9 p.m. Oct. 11 at Guardian Angels in Oakdale, and an event in English and Spanish 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 12 at Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Paul.

At the St. Victoria gathering, Will Crockett of St. Therese in Deephaven submitted comments by phone. He said they centered on his concern for young adults and what he perceived as their glaring absence from the Church. The 24-year-old, who is engaged to be married next summer, converted to the Catholic Church at age 16. His fiancé also is a convert.

“I thought I would speak to what I know best, which is that my generation is the least represented here,” he said. “We’ve got little kids, at least at my parish. We’ve got folks in their 30s and up, a lot of (baby) boomers and a lot of their parents, too. But, my generation is missing, particularly the young men, and that concerns me a lot.”

Crockett also expressed the need to “return to orthodoxy and to the truth.” Others expressed similar sentiments, including a man who received a standing ovation after making a passionate plea to Archbishop Hebda for stronger catechesis in the faith.

Some people shared stories of feeling mistreated because of sexual orientation, with one person remarking that a favorite hymn called “All Are Welcome” now only brings pain.

“I really enjoyed the process and I think it’s important to be part of it,” said Casey Boerner, 28, of Immaculate Conception in Watertown and a teacher at St. Joseph School in Waconia. “I really appreciate the archbishop’s leadership in listening and being an active listener. And, I want to be part of the process of listening. I think it was very important that the message was to listen without judgment, and to listen with empathy and to hear all voices, whether or not we agree.”

Bryan Blommel of St. Hubert in Chanhassen came to listen, but also to encourage the archbishop and the Church in general “to go back to being bold and to not be afraid to proclaim itself in the public (square), to make its presence known.”

“I think it’s time for us to move on from where the scandals have gone,” he said. “Now, it’s time for us to have that very public presence, and to reaffirm our faith in a very public manner.”

Tags: , , ,

Category: Archdiocesan Synod