When Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki told participants at “Return to the Upper Room” he wanted Catholics in southeastern Wisconsin to “get sick of hearing” about the work of the 2014 Archdiocesan Synod, they laughed.
To proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through his saving death and Resurrection by calling, forming and sending disciples to go and make new disciples. As a people, we are called to encounter Jesus and grow as disciples through the sacramental life of the Church.
When he told them people should hear about the work of the synod so often during the next several years that it becomes “engrained” among the faithful, many of the 325 in attendance Sunday, June 14, at the Cousins Center event nodded in agreement.
“What I want is that the synod is not a beautiful moment in time that is engraved, encased and enshrined in a lot of beautiful words, placed in a binder and put on a shelf so that in five, six, seven years someone says, ‘You know, we should have done that.’ ‘You know, we did that; we addressed that at the synod.’ ‘This is some area we should be involved in.’ ‘You know, six years ago the synod said that,’” the archbishop said. “I want the synod to be right before us always.”
‘Not bankrupt in the Spirit’
During the three and a half hour event that featured three talks, the debut of two videos related to synod priorities, celebration of Mass, and performances by choirs and dance troupes that reflected the diversity of the archdiocese, the part pep rally, part affirmation for those called to implement the synod’s work conveyed the archbishop’s desire that the synod would be a living work.
“We need to come back together to remind ourselves of the roots established by the synod, the work that’s being done and the challenges that lie ahead of us,” he said of the reason for the gathering.
Praising the commitment of the Archdiocesan Synod Implementation Commission (ASIC), Archbishop Listecki said, “What we need to accomplish as a church is to fulfill our dreams for a stronger and more responsive church. That might seem strange for an archdiocese that is in bankruptcy, but we’re not bankrupt in the Spirit.”
The audience responded with enthusiastic applause.
Work rooted in synod
The archbishop noted that initiatives that had already begun in the archdiocese or that were about to begin, were connected to the work of the synod. He specifically noted the urban schools initiative that is in the early stages of development.
The initiative, he noted, will depend upon “collaboration of urban parishes that are serving our Catholic schools.” The schools will be “under a type of leadership that will have governance and excellence for teacher formation and the resources that will be needed for our students,” according to the archbishop.
Speaking about the recently announced urban initiative, Archbishop Listecki said, “Whatever we do, we are tied to the city. They are our people, they are part of our mission. The city is crying out because of the problems, poverty, violence and unemployment.”
He acknowledged Fr. Timothy Kitzke, newly named vicar general, whose focus will be urban affairs.
“He loves Christ, he loves the church and he loves the city,” the archbishop said. Archbishop Listecki noted two pastoral plans – one, under the direction of
Fr. Javier Bustos, already in place for the Hispanic community; the other, under the direction of School Sister of Notre Dame Shawnee Sykes, is being developed – were linked to synod priorities.
In recognizing the emphasis the synod placed upon leadership development, the archbishop recognized the work of the archdiocesan vocations director,
Fr. Luke Strand, adding that Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, St. Francis, would be opening a new wing this fall “because of the number of students we will have studying for the priesthood.”
‘I need you’
Asking the gathering, “What do I need you for?” Archbishop Listecki answered his own question.
“I need you to be intentional disciples – individuals who are empowered to go out, individuals who first start with your own lives in increasing the excitement of the church in your own life,” he said.
The archbishop told them they could be intentional disciples by praying, engaging in the church, making themselves knowledgeable, practicing stewardship of time, talent and treasure, and “by preaching the Word to others, by not being afraid to introduce Christ.”
He added, “…do it as I have it seen done so well in this archdiocese, with tremendous humility, understanding that in the end we’re only servants of God, offering our lives humbly to him.”
Addressing participants as “intentional disciples,” Archbishop Listecki reiterated what is required of them. “I need you to take the message into our communities, whether it’s your businesses, our schools – wherever we find yourselves out in the world – you take Christ with you and you proclaim the message of Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing he has called you to that service and in his love he has given you the ability to touch others.” Mission and discipleship
Rich Harter, director of the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization, linked the archbishop’s thoughts to Catholic identity – a tenet at the heart of the archbishop’s tenure in Milwaukee.
“You are the directors of mission and disciple-making. That’s your identity,” he said. “Discipleship is the engine that moves the mission.” Harter repeatedly spoke about the “one thing” Jesus gave to his followers.
“We’ve got to get laser-focused on the one thing Jesus gave us: Go and make disciples. Make disciples, make disciples – make disciples so that we can send them to go and make new disciples,” he said. Harter noted that Catholics have much to offer those they evangelize.
“The beauty of everything we have as Catholics – the creed, the sacraments, our moral teachings and the beautiful spiritual prayer tradition of our church – all of that is not for ourselves. It is meant to be given away,” he said.
The Archdiocesan Synod made it clear where attention was immediately needed, and ASIC, parishes and clusters are devoting their attention to those areas, according to Randy Nohl, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Synod Implementation.
“We’ve asked all parishes to focus on evangelization and the Sunday Mass,” he said. “Not only did they receive the most votes at the synod, but it is critical to who we are as Catholics. It’s at the center of everything we are as Catholics.”
Nohl said his office, ASIC and the pastoral priorities teams would “work side by side, hand in hand” with the parishes in those areas, as well as others, but Mass and evangelization would be the focus initially.
“Ultimately, everything we need to do needs to reach the person in the pews, or reach the people we’d like to invite to be in the pews,” he said, encouraging attendees to use the videos (See related story on Page 8) before or after Mass, link them on their parish websites, and send them to their children.
“We will help you connect to the mission that comes out of the synod, but also help us to connect to this focus on evangelization and the Sunday Mass,” Nohl said.