Synod Listening Sessions Report
An Overview of Saint Peter’s participation in SYNOD 2021-2023
In November 2021, Saint Peter’s began participating in the Synod process. The process was regularly explained and encouraged at Mass by our Pastor. Pastoral Council Members also offered witness testimony at several Masses. Three in-person listening sessions were held in the school gymnasium: one for ministry leaders and members, and two for the general public. In addition, a virtual session was offered, a Youth Ministry session was held, and we received several completed surveys from parishioners. We are sincerely grateful for the honesty, insightfulness, generosity, and courage of all who participated.
Blessings of the Synodal Experience
During the ongoing restrictions of a heightened wave of the COVID pandemic, many parishioners participated and seized upon this remarkable opportunity to celebrate our Parish and our faith as well as the opportunity to take an honest look at our present and to dream for our future. The listening sessions were opportunities to discover common concerns and common hopes. Many common themes emerged. The process reinforced and demonstrated a great love of our faith and a great love for our Parish. The process often arrived at a clear desire to build on the core values of our faith and to urgently evolve those practices to be more inclusive. The council heard a need for commitment to the belief that all are truly welcome. The council also saw the urgent need to foster the commitment and participation of younger generations. The meetings generated a lot of excitement for ideas and suggestions for the Parish. Each session ended with a sense of hope for the future and joy for our church.
CORE QUESTION ONE
HOW IS THIS “JOURNEYING TOGETHER” HAPPENING TODAY IN YOUR COMMUNITY?
1. Engaged Ministries:
Even during the pandemic, the many active ministries brought people together and provided opportunities to put our faith into practice.
2. A Welcoming Community
Overwhelmingly people spoke of and shared stories about the efforts made by parishioners to connect, to welcome, to help.
3. An Active Parish
Parishioners are proud of the active, engaged Parish under Father Mike’s generous and compassionate leadership.
What prevents us from “walking together?” What hinders people from being a part of the Parish and/or speaking up courageously, candidly, and responsibly?
Parishioners spoke personally and passionately about how aspects of the Universal Church impact inclusion at our Parish. Though we have a banner stating “All Are Welcome”, the Universal Church is not welcoming to many in our community. Further, the ongoing abuse scandals have discouraged parishioners.
CORE QUESTION TWO
HOW ARE WE “WALKING TOGETHER” AS A CHURCH?
By our deep listening, what actions do you hear the Holy Spirit asking the universal Church to take?
This question was the most discussed topic of all of our sessions. The Universal Church needs to be truly inclusive. Women should be in leadership positions. The Church should evaluate its procedures for annulment and its stance on remarriage. There needs to be changes in governance, more transparency, and greater equity.
What practical steps are needed to include people in the areas of leadership, governance, and inclusion in the universal Church?
Leadership: Women should be in equal positions of leadership at all levels–including women priests. Many parishioners also felt that priests should be allowed to marry.
Governance: There needs to be greater transparency and equity. Parishioners feel that the clergy abuse cases have not been fully addressed and that finances are not being appropriately used. There needs to be a visible change to the world. That change must come soon or we will lose generations of young Catholics.
Inclusion: Please welcome and accept all people–especially those who are historically marginalized. The Church needs to publicly welcome LGBTQ+ Catholics to Mass. Divorced and remarried parishioners should be able to receive communion.
How can the Archdiocese of Newark support you in your local parish?
People would like a more visible presence from the Archdiocese. People also felt that our parish contributes a great deal of money but few were certain of how that money was used and most felt that our Parish was not benefiting.
What are 3 steps we can take in our Archdiocese to grow more collaboratively for the future?
Step One: More visitations from the Bishop and Cardinal.
Step Two: Lower the Parish assessment, which St. Peter’s pays to the Archdiocese each year.
Step Three: Honesty and accountability: Updates on healing, accountability, and prevention of sexual abuse. Greater transparency of finances.
List 3 to 5 themes which you heard in the table discussions which will assist with your future Parish with pastoral planning.
1. Keeping youth, young people, and young families involved in the Parish.
2. Bringing parishioners back after the events of the last two years (pandemic, abuse scandals).
3. Better communication: Update of technology in our indoor and outdoor spaces, including signage and social media.
4. More adult faith formation
5. Continuing to develop social functions and volunteer opportunities.