Even after spending an exhausting weekend at the Cousins Center as a delegate for the Archdiocesan Synod, Therese Hoffman, of St. Florian, West Milwaukee, wasn’t planning on going home to relax.School Sister of St. Francis Frances Cunningham, top center, leads a small group of delegates in discussion Sunday afternoon at the Cousins Center, St. Francis. (Catholic Herald photo by John Kimpel)

Describing herself as invigorated and on fire with her faith, Hoffman said she was planning to go home and immediately write her piece on her synod experiences for her parish’s quarterly newsletter so she could convey her enthusiasm for what she had experienced.

As one of 460 delegates representing parishes, organizations, health care facilities, schools and other entities, she had spent the weekend discussing issues facing the church and helping to chart a future path for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Hoffman and the other delegates discussed eight mission areas — liturgy, cultural diversity, evangelization, formation, Catholic Social Teaching, marriage and family, stewardship and leadership — in small groups and then came together as a group to vote on the top two priorities in each category. (See voting results, Page 1.)

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki will sort through the results and will issue a synodal declaration on Sept. 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, which will lay out a path for the archdiocese over the next 10 to 15 years.

“I’m ready to go right home and write my piece for the newsletter,” Hoffman told the Catholic Herald during a reception Sunday evening after the synod’s closing Mass at the Cousins Center, explaining the synod had ignited a fire among the delegates and she wanted to do her part to make sure it remained lit.

When her pastor, Carmelite Fr. David Centner, approached her more than a year ago and asked her if she was busy on June 7 and 8, 2014, she knew something important was on the horizon.

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Honored to have been selected by her pastor to represent the parish at the synod, Hoffman, who has a business degree from Mount Mary University and who works for Bon-Ton Stores, is no stranger to an archdiocesan synod. During the last synod in 1987, she was a recent college graduate and part of the synod choir.

She’s heard people say that nothing came from the 1987 experience – and while she doesn’t necessarily agree, she said, “I hope that some of the igniting that took place, we can trickle it down to parishes. When we did the district meetings, we were recollecting about the past synod and some said that nothing really came of it. I think it did, but maybe now that communication takes place the minute something happens and in the past, we had to wait. These are different times.”

As she reflected on the discussions of the weekend, Hoffman said she believes formation of adults and evangelization of youth are among her top priorities for the church.

“It seems (our youth are catechized) up through confirmation, until they are 16 or so but then are left out to pasture and are never drawn back to the church. The big thing is we are losing our youth and they are our future,” she said, explaining her 24-year-old daughter is an example of a lost youth. Even though she went to Catholic elementary school, she is no longer a practicing Catholic.

While not a voting member of the synod, Patricia Moore echoed Hoffman’s concerns about youth.

A combined choir featuring musicians from St. Martin de Porres, St. Rafael, St. Adalbert, St. Michael parishes, Milwaukee, and Lumen Christi Parish, Mequon, sings at the synod’s closing Mass on Sunday, June 8. (Catholic Herald photo by John Kimpel)

“We’ve got to get people to come to church because a lot don’t have faith anymore. We try our best to get our youth involved because they are our future,” said Moore, a member of St. Martin de Porres, Milwaukee, and a member of the combined choir which sang for the synod’s closing Mass.

For Sandy Piper, a member of Sacred Heart, Racine, the synod was “fabulous, well-organized and exciting.”

Like Hoffman, she said the experience left her renewed and energized about her faith.

She plans to return to her parish to convey her enthusiasm for the church and the synod, and specifically, “I plan to talk about the Holy Spirit and how it really was with us for two days. Like Archbishop Listecki said, ‘Now’s the time to ignite, renew and energize.’”

Describing herself as a wife, mother of children ages 15 to 25, grandmother to two, and a customer service representative at Promotions Unlimited in Mount Pleasant, she said she’s also looking forward to his synodal declaration because, “That’s when the rubber hits the road, where everyone actually starts working to make things happen.” 

As a member of the Archdiocesan Synod Preparatory Commission, Gabriela Cabrera, Christian formation director at St. Patrick and Cristo Rey parishes, Racine, had an insider’s perspective of what to expect from the synod event.

Yet, she admitted, “It was more wonderful than I expected. To me, the Holy Spirit was working in all the people. It was wonderful and it didn’t end with the weekend because we really feel the Spirit’s presence.”

She said she left the synod confident “the future of the archdiocese is going to go on the right path. We are going the right way because all these people and I am sure the archbishop is going to make good decisions for the future of the archdiocese.”

Cabrera, a group facilitator in a Spanish-speaking group, believes formation and evangelization are priorities for the archdiocese.

“I have a lot of hope that the Spirit is going to go to work. I know what I have to do and that’s to work with all the people outside and I have to strengthen and share with others my faith,” she said. “I’m really excited to get to work and seeing everybody with this enthusiasm and with this responsibility and willingness to work together, to me, was contagious and I want to go and do more to spread this to my parish to start working to strengthen the Catholic Church.”

Cabrera added she was touched to see the presence of so many young people who, in spite of problems the church is facing, want to be involved. 

“They want to belong to the Catholic Church; maybe we are not perfect, but we want to change and they want to continue being Catholics,” she added.

David Reiner, delegate from Immaculate Heart of Mary, West Allis, said the synod reminded him that the church is alive and vibrant.

“Sometimes when you see the same people at Mass every Sunday – it gets old. But being involved with the synod and preparation and especially these two days, I could feel the energy in all the people and it does seem like a new Pentecost. I could feel the Holy Spirit,” said Reiner, a retail merchandiser for Crystal Farms.

Delegate from St. Josaphat Basilica, and member of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, Angelica Varona Camara, said she expected to see people fired up about their faith and energized.

“I can’t wait for people to spread it out into the community,” she added. “That sentence, to go out and set the world on fire, that’s how I felt, especially when we crossed over into intercultural, interfaith discussions, areas we normally don’t touch. The discussions were amazing,” she said, explaining they ranged from family life to acceptance of all people to regaining a respect for priesthood.

“I hope this will help change minds and hearts,” added Varona Camara, mother of four young adults and program coordinator and director of special events for the Pan African Community Association.

For Jacquelyn Coleman, a retired Milwaukee Public Schools teacher, the fact that the coming together of the archdiocese was such a diverse experience was uplifting. 

A member of St. Martin de Porres, Milwaukee and a member of the combined choir that sang at the closing Mass, she said,  “Anyone who had anything to do with this synod, whether planning, singing or print media, it was done in such a diverse manner, including many people from all over the archdiocese. That was magnificent and I hope they continue doing that.”