The 2014 Synod provided the Archdiocese of Milwaukee with a roadmap of how to navigate the next decade and a mission statement that weaves through everything the archdiocese does.

“Proclaim Christ and make disciples through the sacramental life of the Church,” has been the guiding principle for the archdiocese for the past seven years.

“There is nothing stronger than this,” Archdiocese Chief Operating Officer Brad Berghouse said.

Speaking at the Oct. 23 Synod Anniversary presentation, “The Synod Calls Us Forward,” Berghouse provided an update on the archdiocese’s future at Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center. He explained that Catholic identity, Evangelization, and Stewardship were the foundation of the 2014 Synod. Those continue to be the top priorities for Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki in his final years serving Milwaukee.

“This is the most influential document we have,” Berghouse said. “This is something we use. It does not sit on our shelves — I look at it every day. Our job is to serve you, the parishes, and the schools. When we decide to do anything, hire someone, or spend money, we ask if it will help schools or parishes, and if the answer is no, we shouldn’t do it. This (mission statement) is what we live every day, helping parishes and schools with their missions.”

The Synod also birthed three pastoral priorities for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee: missionary planning and leadership, evangelization and the Sunday Mass, and Catholic Social Responsibility.

“We have 11 deaneries, 10 counties, 188 parishes and 102 schools, and from a diocesan standpoint, we are going through recommendations and trying to review those now,” Berghouse said. “Also, we have about 40 parishes working on a missionary strategic plan. We are here to help parishes do this.”

Archdiocese of Milwaukee Schools touch 28,000 lives each day; Berghouse discussed future alignments and what the outlook looks like for Catholic schools in the area, such as whether there will be single-parish schools or larger school systems.

“If we want to make schools vibrant, we have to plan for it,” he said. “Also, under this priority is developing strong lay leadership in the parish, leadership development of priests, and priest placement.”

Berghouse presented a matrix for priests of varying vocational stages, such as associate pastor, new pastor to the archdiocese, first-time pastor or transitional pastor. Each priest will go through a pastor’s toolbox depending on their position within the archdiocese. This program will train pastors to run meetings, deal with HR issues and become effective leaders in their parishes.

For the Evangelization and the Sunday Mass priority, Berghouse referenced Archbishop Listecki’s recent reflection, “The Gift of Sunday.”

“This is intentionally inviting people back to Mass, back to the Eucharist,” Berghouse said. “We need to get back to receiving the Eucharist. There are two processes within this reflection, the shoulder Catholic, which are those parishioners coming every Sunday or during the week. The idea is to shoulder tap them and ask them how they can go out and evangelize also. The second one is inviting people back to Mass. What is your parish doing to intentionally invite people back to Mass?”

Included in the Evangelization priority is discipleship and learning to walk alongside someone, rather than teaching or leading them.

“No matter if you are quiet or have a public ministry, you have a story of faith,” Berghouse said. “Whether you have a grade-school understanding or a theology degree, you have a story of faith that can help someone. Tell your story — it may be uncomfortable, but if you are trying to get people to come and understand Jesus Christ, telling your story can help draw people in.”

The Catholic Social Responsibility priority provides a strong coordinated Catholic response to many of the Catholic social issues in the archdiocese. Out of the $150 million capital campaign, $5 million is set aside for Catholic social responsibility efforts.

“Our mission is to unite the mission of our Catholic parishes to reach out effectively to those most vulnerable and in need throughout the 10 counties of the archdiocese,” Berghouse said. “Deep needs exist, particularly in our central city of Milwaukee and other urban areas and in our rural communities. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus reminds us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. We call this our Catholic responsibility, and we recognize that each person is a child of God in his image and likeness.”

Berghouse outlined the additional social issues included under the umbrella of Catholic Social Responsibility:

  • Respect life from conception to natural death;
  • Pregnancy help — for the female and her family;
  • Mental wellness;
  • Ministry to the homebound;
  • Racism;
  • Nursing homes and memory care;
  • Jail and prison ministry for the incarcerated and their families;
  • Immigration and refugee families;
  • Human trafficking;
  • Bereavement;
  • Special needs, such as those with autism, the handicapped and those with Downs Syndrome;
  • National disasters;
  • Divorce and separation;
  • Urban and rural; and
  • Community outreach.

“We have a lot of social issues we want to help you with,” said Berghouse. “Is your parish moving the needle or just trying to survive? Does your parish have a missionary strategic plan? Have you read the ‘Gift of Sunday?’ What is your parish doing intentionally to bring people back? Are you prepared and ready to explore discipleship, and what would you do if your parish closed — would anyone notice? If you want help with that, we are here to help you. That is our mission statement. We want to hear questions or complaints — please call us.”

Archdiocese of Milwaukee Chief Operating Officer Brad Berghouse discusses strategies the archdiocese is using as a result of the 2014 Synod at an event Oct. 23 at Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center. (Photo by Juan Carlos Medina)