Sports teams contribute to the landscape of the State of Wisconsin and Wisconsinites’ emotions go up and down with the victories and the losses of favorite teams. It is always more pleasant to come to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center on Monday after a Packer victory than a loss.

When I was installed Archbishop of Milwaukee in January 2010, little did I realize it would be a banner year for the state’s favorite football team. That season culminated in a Super Bowl victory on Feb. 6, 2011, against the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

But within that year, there were harrowing moments. Actually, the season came down to a game played against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. If the Packers won, they were in the playoffs, but if they lost, they were out. They won, of course, and the rest is history.

You will hear all great coaches tell you they want their destiny to be in their hands. They don’t want to rely on the performances of others. They want to rely on their own strengths and talents.

This is true for talented athletes. Michael Jordan wanted the ball in his hands when the game was on the line. Hank Aaron wanted the bat in his hands when it was two outs in the bottom of the ninth, a runner on and the team down by a run. And, of course, Aaron Rodgers wants that football in his hands in the fourth quarter for that last attempt at a winning score.

Before you think the archbishop has gone “sports crazy,” I would suggest the implementation of the Archdiocesan Synod has put the ball in our hands.

We must use our strengths and talents to bring the synod home. Choices have been made, the priorities established; now the work must begin.

This is an opportunity for us to grow as an archdiocese. The delegates expressed their desire to see an increase in understanding (catechesis), integration of the faith (formation) and witness (praxis). Just about every pastor would want his parishioners to grow in these areas.

Many synods produce wonderful material, but fail to achieve their goals because of the lack of follow-through. We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot allow the 2014 Archdiocesan Synod to be a brief, shining moment in the history of the archdiocese and allow the good work accomplished by so many to be relegated to a library shelf.

After the publication of the Synodal Decree, I have offered presentations to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, the Archdiocesan Priests Council, Fall Clergy Day and the staff of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center. After those presentations, it was clear to me there is energy surrounding the vision offered by the synod. I wish I could bottle that energy and distribute it over the next 10 years. But I know that it is not possible.

What is possible is our ability to engage many people in the work of the Archdiocesan Synod. It is imperative that every one of us takes responsibility for the work of the synod. We need to find ways to engage the persons in the pews whose lives at this time may not allow them to participate in parish activities, but who can still read or visit a website. Reaching those persons will be necessary for the success of the synod implementation.

It is critical that everyone takes ownership of the synod priorities and that all Catholic institutions participate in in whatever manner their status allows. ASIC (Archdiocesan Synod Implementation Commission) will offer reasonable and accessible suggestions for everyone. 

Pastoral leadership (pastors, administrators, parish directors, priests, deacons and pastoral associates) will be extremely important for synod implementation. Capturing the vision of the Archdiocesan Synod and integrating it into the work of the parish will take skilled pastoral leadership. But working together, our parishes will create a new moment for the faithful of the archdiocese.

The work of the synod is not an exercise in organizational management; rather, it is about faith. Therefore, prayer must form the basis for our implementation. Integrating prayers of intercessions for our synod issues at our Sunday liturgies and requesting that various devotional groups assist us with their prayers is an example of our confidence in the power of prayer.

At this time, we turn our attention to Mary Mother of the Church and our patron St. John the Evangelist — the image of Mary at the foot of the cross joined by John the Apostle. It is obvious Jesus entrusted Mary to John and entrusted John to Mary. Jesus, through John, gave to us the church his mother, and Mary was given to us, her children, to her care. It is only proper that these two figures lead us as a church as we move into the next decade.

Following the signing of the Synodal Decree on Sept. 14, I concluded with these words:

“We begin the implementation of the synod on the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross. The cross is the greatest sign of God’s love for us: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.’

“Although we have our problems, challenges and uncertainties as an archdiocese, we confront them with a sure and certain hope that God loves us. For as St. Paul says, ‘If God is for us who can be against us?’

“We move forward as his church, confident that the Father, who demonstrated his love for us through the sacrifices of his Son, will guide us through the Holy Spirit toward holiness, and use us as instruments of his power and glory.

“This is our opportunity to seize the moment and contribute to the great faith tradition of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. With the priorities of the Archdiocesan Synod established, we give thanks and witness as a church to the power of the cross in Southeastern Wisconsin.”

The synod implementation makes it clear that our destiny is in our hands. I know we will rise to the challenge.