When I viewed the picture taken of me in the Herald (May 23, Page 1, printed again at right) at the episcopal chair in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on the feast of Pentecost, everything depicted the importance of the moment.
I was fully vested with the pallium, wearing the miter and holding the crosier. Everything was an official sign of the office of the archbishop.
Synod is our moment in history – Herald of Hope by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki
I was making a proclamation which decreed that a synod would take place June 7, 2014, on the feast of Pentecost. In the history of the archdiocese, as well as the history of our government, many proclamations or decrees are issued and little, if any, attention is paid to them.
When President Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address he even stated: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
Yet this speech becomes one of the most quoted presentations in American history. Grammar school students commit Lincoln’s words to memory. Like so many moments, those involved fail to recognize the significance of their words or actions; it is left to history to place the final evaluation.
I would like to think Pentecost Sunday 2013 was a special moment in the history of the archdiocese.
There is such a rich history of faith in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The faithful men and women, missionaries, priests, religious sisters and brothers arrived dedicated to proclaiming the person of Jesus Christ and building his church.
Fr. Steven Avella’s work, “In the Richness of the Earth,” is replete with stories of the movement of ethnic communities, the patterns of episcopal leadership, the shaping of education and the resolve of lay faithful to establish parishes. But the work cannot be read in its fullness apart from the faith which motivated every action. That same motivation exists today.
Perhaps I look at things through rose-colored glasses, but I have constantly praised this archdiocese for the depth of its faith. Our faith has been challenged on many levels over the last 50 years. There have been social upheavals, changes in the liturgy, a questioning of authority, a decrease in the number of priests and religious and, of course, the clergy sexual abuse scandal. All of these have taken their toll on the credibility of the church. Yet, through all of this, the faith remains strong and vibrant because the church is the Body of Christ and the sins of some cannot distract us from proclaiming our trust in Christ who sends his Holy Spirit to lead his church to salvation.
In order for the synod to be successful, we need to provide a firm foundation for the evaluation necessary to assess our vision and goals as we move forward as church. The pastoral letter released a few months ago offers an ability to reflect on the nature of the church. We need to identify who we are as church.
The question posed to the apostles by Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” gives us the basis for our movement. I have already received feedback from parish council and staff members who with their pastors and priests have discussed the pastoral. They followed the Parish Leadership Reflection Guide provided to assist in the reading. Many tell me the discussions are rich with a willingness among participants to share their experiences of church, the profound sense of sacredness in the sacraments, the intimacy felt in Communion and the celebration of mystery which challenges us to realize that we are involved with the “holy” directing us to the transcendent.
But the pastoral letter needs the direction of the pastor or parish priest using the guidelines in exercising his role as teacher. Every pastor exercises his three offices under the bishop in administrating, sanctifying and teaching his parish. There is no excuse for a pastor to fail in the preparation of his community for the coming synod. This will be for us a New Pentecost and we must provide a spiritual environment in the lives of our faithful for the Holy Spirit to move us as church.
It is my hope that the pastoral will “prompt and inform further discussion and study, which will reinforce the theological and spiritual richness of the church. However, our ultimate goal is for believers to renew their own spiritual fervor and reconnect to the supernatural source and transcendent power that has motivated so many believers to build up the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and indeed change the world.”
The synod commission, under the direction of Randy Nohl, established in September 2012, has been meeting monthly to discuss the synod. The commission realizes it is imperative to a successful synod that its participants be formed in a discussion and understanding of the church. This is our moment in the history of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and we must not lose the opportunity to move our church forward meeting the challenges we face with confidence in the Holy Spirit that guides the church.
Please read the pastoral, watch the videos, use the reflection guide and discuss the questions with your pastor. Come, Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful.