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Synod update

Synod update (Vermont Catholic/Cori Fugere Urban)
Preparations are underway for the first Diocesan Synod in the Diocese of Burlington in more than a half century.
 
Bishop Christopher J. Coyne is convening the synod to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Catholic Church in Vermont and to establish particular laws and policies to do so. This will be at least a yearlong project and is “a serious undertaking by the Church,” he said. “It is not a simple convening of meetings.”
 
Father Brian O’Donnell is the executive secretary for the synod, and he explained that a diocesan synod is an extraordinary gathering for the purpose of advising the diocesan bishop in his role as legislator for the diocese, especially when the bishop wants advice about major policies that affect the whole diocese.
 
“In my travels around Vermont over the past two and half years, when I ask people ‘What are some of the concerns you have?’ the top two are almost always, ‘What is going to happen to our small parishes?’ and ‘What can we do to keep young people and families in the Church?’ Both of these are serious topics that will obviously be discussed in the upcoming preparations for and convening of next year’s Diocesan Synod,” Bishop Coyne noted.
 
The procedures for the synod are governed by a 1997 Instruction from the Holy See.  According to that instruction, there is a Preparatory Commission that has the primary responsibility for planning the synod, under the leadership of the diocesan bishop. 
 
The commission already has met and includes priests, deacons, religious, diocesan staff and lay members from the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
 
“The process of preparatory consultation will begin at the parish level, probably beginning in October, and continue at the deanery or regional level thereafter,” Father O’Donnell said.
 
The number of delegates is limited because all delegates are expected to express their views during the synod sessions. “All Vermont Catholics will be invited to participate in the synod process by taking part in the consultative sessions at the parish level during the preparatory period,” he said.
 
The bishop will set the agenda and decide the number of synod sessions. Currently Bishop Coyne is considering having three one-day sessions.
 
“It's clear that the Church in Vermont is facing significant challenges with smaller numbers of active Catholics, smaller numbers of priests and a surrounding culture that is increasingly unfriendly to faith,” he continued. “This raises big questions about how, in the face of these challenges, the Church can most effectively evangelize and carry out her primary divine mission of the salvation of souls.”
 
Topics for the synod will “likely involve some dimensions of pastoral planning with possible changes to the distribution of clergy and the configuration of parishes so that our primary focus is on the salvation of souls rather than the maintenance of buildings,” Father O’Donnell said.
 
After the work of preparation is completed, the bishop will convene the synod to meet in the necessary sessions to complete the work of discernment and planning and to then enact the policies, laws and directives to carry out that plan in the Vermont Church. “I will seek input from all. I will listen to all. And I will discern with you all,” he said.


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This story was original published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 
Last modified onThursday, 07 September 2017 13:12
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