Friday, 03 February 2017 08:34

It’s time for a synod — we can make a difference

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On Jan. 22, approximately 300 clergy, religious and laity representing the seven deaneries and 129 parishes that make up the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois gathered in prayer with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki at our mother church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.

On Jan. 22, approximately 300 clergy, religious and laity representing the seven deaneries and 129 parishes that make up the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois gathered in prayer with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki at our mother church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.

Bishop Paprocki led us in prayer and gave a homily which inspired all who gathered for this preparatory event as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in the upcoming 2017 synod of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. The theme is: “A Call to Discipleship: Come and See.” This was Bishop Paprocki’s personal invitation to every member of our diocesan family: “Come and see!”

A “scroll” was presented to every person in attendance and one scroll was to be taken back to all 129 parishes and copies were then to be given to each pastor/parochial vicar, and to each member of the parish leadership committees. The scroll contained many questions offered by the Preparatory Commission for the synod for reflection, discussion and sharing.

The first statement of this scroll was an important statement about true discipleship in the church. It stated, “Discipleship is about relationship with Jesus Christ — to be a disciple is to have entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” I encourage each member of our diocese to look at their own respective relationship with Jesus. The questions shared to us are connected to this “Living Discipleship as a Way of Life.”

We begin this preparatory phase with looking into our personal faith journey as we look at our relationship with Christ today: What does your relationship with Jesus Christ look like? How did it come about? How can you start/deepen your relationship? These questions help us describe our relationship with our Lord.

In Scriptures Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am? Do you love me? Do you love me more than these?” (What are the “these” that compete with my love for Jesus?) And as, Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” (So, is he the one — or are you looking for someone else?)

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” What does this quote say to you? How do/can the sacraments of church help you in your relationship with Jesus Christ? Is your heart grateful?

“Were not 10 healed?” the Lord said to the one healed leper who returned to say thanks. “Where are the other nine?” How do you/can you show gratitude to the Lord for this personal relationship and for all he has done for you? Tell us of your own gift of stewardship.

These questions are a great way for each of us to begin to participate in the vision and hope we have for the success of our 2017 synod. We will have two major diocesan synod deanery prayer and listening sessions on April 2, and Sept. 24 for the clergy, religious and laity to gather and share desires, needs, hopes and opinions.

All reflection and input will be brought together for reflection and discussion, to a group of chosen leaders who are the official members of the diocesan synod 2017, who will help to propose the synodal declarations and decrees. In early November this group will have a final session to vote on synodal declarations, decrees and statutes.

Our solemn Mass for the closing of the 2017 diocesan synod of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois will be held on the solemn feast of Christ the King, on Sunday, Nov. 26 at 2 p.m. at the Cathedral in Springfield. This is sure to be a historic day in the life of our diocese.

Our time during these preparatory days before the official opening of the 2017 synod on April 11 at the Cathedral at the annual chrism Mass offers us time to “get the word out” to all areas, parishes and faith communities and all Catholics of the 28 counties that make up the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.

I hope you will join our bishop, the synod leaders and our diocesan family in praying daily for the success of this synod of 2017. May we join the workings of the Holy Spirit as we “light a fire” to burn brightly throughout the diocese and in the hearts of all the faithful of the local church! We pray each member of this local church will seek to enter into full discipleship, using the gifts each of us possess, gifted to us by the Holy Spirit for use to help the church grow, and the faith to reach all the ends of the world.

We are being called to discipleship, as a popular song says, we are to “Go make a difference, we can make a difference, go make a difference in the world.”

The synod has special goals. Those goals include an increase in Mass attendance for the purpose to create new and enthusiastic disciples to spread the Good News. Catholic education-formation through the rich asset of Catholic schools will become the church’s gift to all Catholics as all the members accept the responsibility of offering this ability to all our Catholic families, students and young adults. We will seek an increase of vocations to the priesthood, consecrated religious life and the permanent diaconate. We hope to have 40 seminarians by 2020 and 50 seminarians by 2025 — as well as a true commitment to always support the ministry of promoting vocations. We hope to offer adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in all of our parishes and various Catholic institutions as we realize prayer is the foundation of all church growth and success in proclaiming the Good News. We will promote “Discipleship as a Way of Life” to be in our religious formation curriculums from preschool formation through adult faith formation.

Yes, it’s time for a synod. Keep watching your parish leadership who will be directing you and the members of your parish family through your parish bulletin. Read the Catholic Times, and learn from the bishop’s column. Join and be a voice for promoting “Discipleship as a Way of Life.” Bishop Paprocki has now invited us to pray and prepare. God is calling us all to renew the face of the earth, right here in central Illinois.

We can make a difference. With God’s grace and our response coming from our grateful hearts, we will!