By Deacon Tom Cuskey and Tom Maguire
Bishop Douglas J. Lucia continued this past week to move through the calendar of diocesan Listening Sessions in preparation of the Synod of the World’s Bishops in 2023. Notes and records from Listening Sessions held around the globe will be assimilated and the resulting topics prepared for Pope Francis and bishops to prayerfully discern and discuss for the ongoing guidance of the universal Church.
Locally, our Diocesan Synod will follow in 2024. Bishop Lucia has committed to attend Listening Sessions in every diocesan PCA (Pastoral Care Area) and related institutions to prepare.
As of Monday, Nov. 15, there have been five synodal Listening Sessions held as “Bishop Douglas Lucia has listened intently and the People of God have shared their hopes and dreams, as well as their concerns for the Church,” according to Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, the director of synodal planning.
On Saturday morning, Nov. 13, Bishop Lucia attended the scheduled meeting of the Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt. This meeting was devoted to a Listening Session in the spirit of synodal planning. Representatives from parishes throughout the diocese come together four times each year to bring the successes, concerns and needs of their parishes before the Council, and to bring back answers and guidance from council and diocesan leaders.
More than 30 DPC attendees spoke; they came from locales including Bridgeport, Camden, Chadwicks, Cincinnatus, Endicott, Fayetteville, Jordan, Liverpool, Minoa, North Syracuse, Oneida, Oswego, Syracuse and Vestal.
Among their concerns was the workload of young priests. One speaker said, “They’re going to be overwhelmed. Hopefully they have a good support staff.”
Some other topics at the DPC Listening Session:
• Why not make the priestly vocation “slightly less permanent.” Recruit individuals in the prime of life and have them “come on board” for 10 or 12 years during which they would give their all, “and I think that would re-energize the Church” and address the personnel shortage. “It’s like the sprint: You can get the best out of a runner in 10 seconds.” After 10 or 12 years, the priest could “re-up, if you will” or “go on to something else … without a burden of guilt and shame and failure. I think that opens up new doors.” The solutions of the past are “simply not working.”
• “Ice time is more important than church time. Our young people worship on the altar of ice hockey, rather than church. It’s inconceivable to me to be scheduling [children’s] activities Sunday mornings,” along with Sunday morning golf.
• The need for the laity to administer parishes in order to free priests for spiritual and liturgical duties.
• The need for leadership roles for women in the Church.
• The need for better understanding of the Eucharist. Clarity is needed on who receives and who does not.
• A speaker at a previous Listening Session in Syracuse had said she wanted priests to “look us in the eye and care about us.” But a DPC speaker said that with a lot of ministerial travel and little free time, they do not have time to do that.
• The hope is that the Synod does not “fiddle around at the edges.”
• Do not abandon the elderly. Focus on retirement needs and grandparents, and address how we can support grandchildren in the faith.
• The importance of the sanctity of life and increasing the role of the laity.
• Watering down the faith will lose people. The little voice in the back of the head that “tells us what is right and wrong is missing.”
• Rural parishes are hard to service.
• “Those who don’t have faith in their life are missing so much.”
• We have lost some of the “spiritual aspect of running a church.”
• The Mass is the greatest prayer there is. We must humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness.
Responding to commentary about leadership roles for women, Bishop Lucia told the DPC that the second-ranking person in the government of Vatican City is now a woman. Also, the bishop said, Pope Francis has removed the requirement of male-only for the formal role of acolyte and lector.
Answering commentary about the need for more understanding of the Eucharist, Bishop Lucia said a Eucharistic Revival will begin in the spring in the United States. “There is going to be a whole catechesis on Eucharist,” the bishop said.
The Synod has been described as a journey. Bishop Lucia said: “I love that image. … The most important thing is that we’re doing it together. So I want to thank you for being part of the journey.”
(The terms of the Executive Committee of the DPC are up in the spring; the DPC seeks a slate of nominees by its March 2022 meeting; the vote will be next May. Those interested should email Past DPC Chairperson Tom Tynan at email@example.com.)
In other Listening Sessions:
• On Wednesday, Nov. 10, in the Liverpool PCA, church members from the linked parishes of Christ the King and Pope John XXIII joined with Epiphany Parish members and other attendees to express their thoughts and desires to Bishop Lucia. With over 200 people in attendance this was the largest Listening Session gathering to date.
• Thursday evening, Nov. 11, students from the Syracuse University community gathered at the SU Catholic Center/St. Thomas More Chapel for Mass, dinner and a Listening Session with the bishop. Chaplain Father Gerry Waterman, OFM Conv., hosted the evening. Students were very engaged, offering their thoughts on improved catechesis, more vibrant liturgies, the sex abuse scandal and the need for the Church to be welcoming to all among other topics.
Sister Katie gave the Sun an update on the Listening Session scheduling process, addressing concerns that sessions have been scheduled mostly at night and through the winter months. Also, questions have been posed as to why there has not been an effort to reach out specifically to other groups who may, for many reasons, have been alienated from the Church.
Sister reports, “Two things necessitated the scheduling of evening sessions: First, the original sessions needed to be completed by the middle of March, because the ‘diocesan summary report’ needed to be submitted to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by April 1, 2022. Second, since the bishop is committed to being present at every Listening Session, his already-full schedule made it necessary to use the evening time slots for this first round.”
However, the diocese has recently received a message from the Vatican that the April 1 deadline has been extended until June 1. Sister says the new date allows sessions to be rescheduled, if necessary, and additional sessions to be considered. Some daytime sessions may be added during that time frame.
Sister Katie also states, “We have heard from many who have attended a Listening Session that they found the experience to be enriching, and we continue to invite and encourage all who are able to attend a Listening Session.” If anyone who is not able to attend a Listening Session “in person” desires to provide input, it is possible to do so in written form. On the “Diocesan Synod” page of the website, one can find an “individual response form” that may be submitted either through the mail or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We welcome your input. … The Bishop is listening!” says Sister.