When I reflect on my experience of the Archdiocesan Synod, Jesus is active in healing his people and empowering us for mission. He calls us closer to himself, to deeper intimacy with him, and he renews his Church, even if fewer people in the broader society are accepting his love.
Pope Benedict XVI famously said in a 1969 speech he gave as a priest, “From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge.” In his view, the Church is going to become both smaller and purer. Since he gave that speech over 50 years ago, it has been discussed a good deal. Pope Francis even recently expressed his agreement during an April 2022 meeting with the Jesuits of Malta. “Pope Benedict,” he said, “was a prophet of this Church of the future, a Church that will become smaller, lose many privileges, be more humble and authentic and find energy for the essential.”
Anyone paying attention to cultural trends can see that things are becoming more hostile for people of faith, but we should not let that discourage us. We should instead do what the early Church did and draw closer to Jesus. As a part of this journey with Christ, I would like to share with you the fruits of our Archdiocesan Synod Process, so that we can rejoice in his works among us and walk together along his path for the archdiocese.
One of the themes that stood out during the listening sessions and in my prayer was the need for healing within the Body of Christ. There are many things that inflict wounds on us today and we must bring these into the light and to Christ for healing. Jesus wants to heal us.
Truly clear and common themes arose at the gatherings held at almost 90 of our parishes, demonstrating that the Holy Spirit was speaking in the communal prayer of the people of the whole Archdiocese of Denver. Two themes that emerged at the parish level and were echoed at the archdiocesan level were unity and healing.
The effects of this were on display in our large group sessions at the Archdiocesan Discerment Event in Broomfield. How good it was to hear the contributions from the Spanish-speaking faithful from the various corners of the archdiocese. Giving them the chance to speak about their concerns was good both for them and for the rest of the Church. The same experience was true for younger and older parishioners, as well as Catholics who live the faith in rural settings.
The communal discernment process was a fruit of the call to a synodal experience. By asking God to reveal his plans for us, we put aside our own ideas, preoccupations and anxieties. Many people entered the parish discernment sessions, and even the Archdiocesan Discernment Event, with their own ideas about what is wrong with the Church and how to fix it. This naturally leads to conflict and division, as people have different assessments about where the Church is at and where she should go. By first spending time in prayer, asking God to reveal where and how he wants us to go on mission, the division of personal agendas was healed.
We gathered to listen to the Holy Spirit in prayer and to each other, so that we can follow God’s plans for the Archdiocese of Denver. There are no better plans than his, and this was seen in the conversions that happened.
At the Archdiocesan Discernment Event, one gentleman told a member of the Synod Team all his opinions about what the Church is doing wrong and what needs to change. The member of the Synod Team suggested that he should go into the chapel and tell Jesus exactly what he had just said. After spending time in Adoration, the man left the chapel in tears and approached the Synod Team member. “I told Jesus exactly what I told you,” he said, “then I waited for God to respond. The first words I heard were, ‘Would [changing those perceived problems] even matter?’” Through time in honest prayer, he was convicted of his own pride and experienced a conversion that opened him to following the will of God instead of his own will or that of the world.
Finally, a third fruit of the Synod Process is that some parishes have already started to act upon the guidance they received in prayer. One parish discerned the need to provide a stronger sense of community for parishioners and immediately created small groups, where a small number of individuals or families would get together to share faith and fellowship. They had almost 200 people sign up immediately to participate in these groups.
I am encouraged to hear how the Holy Spirit is at work in the Archdiocese of Denver. As we listen to the Holy Spirit, we are drawn into deeper intimacy with Jesus and the Father. Rather than coming with our agendas and those of the world, we seek God’s. Like Jesus, we come to know that our very food is to do the will of the Father, not our own (Jn 4:34). As we continue to listen and act upon the Lord’s call, may we take to heart David’s words in the Psalms, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your vindication as the light, and your right as the noonday” (Ps. 37:5-6).