This is the fourth in a series of articles introducing the 17 members of the Archdiocesan Synod Implementation Commission (ASIC). In addition to this group, all of whom were appointed by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and which meets quarterly, the commission includes four ex-officio members: the archbishop; Randy Nohl, archdiocesan director of synod implementation; Barbara Anne Cusack, archdiocesan chancellor; and Rich Harter, director of the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization.
Gabriela Cabrera does not hesitate when she talks about what impact the Archdiocesan Synod will have on the Catholic community.
“My vision and expectations are that we are going to be a strong church, working as one; we are going to do the mission of the church,” she said.
Cabrera, director of religious education at St. Patrick Parish, Racine, sees a tight connection between the synod’s first-year priorities – evangelization and Mass.
“When people understand the meaning of the Mass, they’ll come back,” she said. “If they see Catholics happy in following God, they’ll want to be part of his church.”
Cabrera, a member of the Archdiocesan Synod preparatory commission, said guidance from the Holy Spirit is essential in implementing the synod’s priorities.
“We will work together to make all parishes be alive,” she said, noting that as a result of Kenosha’s post-synod district meeting earlier this year, parishes got a better understanding about the work they needed to do.
“Evangelization is to do what Jesus taught us. To understand evangelization, we have to help others, to do outreach,” Cabrera said.
She hopes evangelization results in people establishing or deepening their relationship with God.
“I hope that they really feel Christ is inside of them,” she said, “and that they see the face of Christ in others.”
Cindi Petre participated in the Archdiocesan Synod process in her parish and district. She termed the discussions and sharing of best practices an “energizing force – a good thing coming right now.” As a member of ASIC, she sees the group building upon that force in working with parishes and clusters to implement the synod’s initiatives.
“I love the idea of Pentecost, that we’re in the Upper Room right now,” she said. “We’re going to take that and get people excited about the Catholic faith.”
Married, and the mother of six adult children, Petre has been director of high school and family ministry at her parish, St. Anthony on the Lake, Pewaukee, since 2003. She has also served in youth ministry at parishes elsewhere in the country.
When she talks about evangelization, it’s personal and ministerial.
“I look at my own kids; we need to focus on young adults and teens,” she said. “What are we missing?”
Noting that teens “have experience of Jesus in their lives,” Petre said the church must ask, “What is it going to take to keep you or bring you back?”
She said that at the district meeting she shared the need for all people to have that “personal experience of Christ.”
“Then, Sunday Mass becomes relevant to them; it’s not just an obligation. We’re drawing them into it,” Petre said.
Some of the discussion at the district meeting, she said, focused on best practices, e.g., a parish offering valet parking for its senior citizens, or having its welcoming ministry after Mass to ensure visitors are greeted as they leave, but “a lot of the conversation” had to do with bringing people back to church.
“Getting people to come to church – that’s the hard part,” Petre said. “We want people to go to Mass because it’s important to them. I don’t know how we’ll do it.”
But her enthusiasm for ASIC and the parishes implementing the synod’s work isn’t dampened.
“We’re all in this together, no matter what the make-up is of our parishes,” she said. “We do feel something good is happening.”