The effort to connect with all the Catholics in the Archdiocese of Newark is underway.
The impressive undertaking is in response to Pope Francis’ desire to hear from as many active and inactive Catholics as possible worldwide.
It is all part of the global synodal process the Holy Father began on Oct. 10 with a special Vatican Mass.
“It will unleash the biggest consultation in human history,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R., said a week later when the Archdiocese of Newark officially began its synodal journey with its own special Mass. “Imagine that: efforts to hear the voices of more than a billion people on the face of the earth. Who does that?”
Ever since, leaders in the Archdiocese quickly mobilized efforts to engage with as many of the 1.3 million active and inactive Catholics in northern New Jersey as possible.
How does it work? It begins with a website, of course. And prayer. And lots of meetings, emails, and phone calls.
“The people I have spoken to throughout the archdiocese seem very enthusiastic about the synod,” said Sister Donna Ciangio, O.P., the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Newark.
Sister Donna and Father Bismarck Chau, the rector of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, are the local Archdiocesan coordinators of the synodal process. They and their teams have been holding information sessions with parishes, schools, religious congregations, and the various ministries of the archdiocese.
During the month of November, diocesan leaders, parish pastors, and lay leaders gathered in person and virtually to learn about the synod process and how to conduct localized listening sessions for the faithful.
Listening sessions will take place throughout the archdiocese from December until February.
“For the listening sessions, we invite all participants to come with an open heart and open mind, ready to hear the Holy Spirit speak through our sisters and brothers," explained Father Bismarck. "These sessions may not solve all the problems or limitations in our Church today, but surely, they will shed light on which direction the Church needs to move forward in these changing times.”
Ultimately, the listening session reports will be gathered and synthesized into a diocesan report to be sent on to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in the Spring. From there, further reporting will be sent on to the Vatican.
Sister Donna said that no matter what, the local synod feedback process is extremely important and can be used to inform decision-making at local parishes and at the diocesan level. She said the feedback should be a treasure trove of information for local parish pastoral councils when it comes to parish planning.
This article was originally written by Jai Agnish for JerseyCatholic.org, the news site of the Archdiocese of Newark.