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God's people speak

Listening sessions underway for archdiocese's second general synod

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Archbishop Thomas Wenski listens as participants at the Immaculate Conception listening session in Spanish make their views known. Moderator Lucia Baez Luzondo, director of the Family Life Office, stands in the center.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski listens as participants at the Immaculate Conception listening session in Spanish make their views known. Moderator Lucia Baez Luzondo, director of the Family Life Office, stands in the center.

Marcos and Karol Gutierrez of St. Benedict Parish in Hialeah fill out their synod feedback form.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Marcos and Karol Gutierrez of St. Benedict Parish in Hialeah fill out their synod feedback form.

MIAMI — They spoke. He listened. Everyone prayed.

Two hours later, archdiocesan Catholics felt they had been heard.

“I liked it a lot,” said Miguel Abud-Jorge, who traveled from St. Francis de Sales Parish in Miami Beach to Immaculate Conception Church in Hialeah on a stormy Friday night to take part in the first synod listening session, held June 15 in Spanish.

“This opens a new chapter in the Church,” said Abud-Jorge, “that the archbishop wants to talk directly with the people. As a wise man once said, wisdom comes from the people, and today the people spoke.”

Archbishop Thomas Wenski listens as participants at the Immaculate Conception listening session in Spanish make their views known.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski listens as participants at the Immaculate Conception listening session in Spanish make their views known.

“I was afraid to say anything,” said Marianne Benvenuti, a member of San Pablo Church in Marathon. “I didn’t know how my comments would be taken. I was very impressed with Archbishop Wenski, that he looked me in the eye. He did not show me any judgment.”

Benvenuti took part in the second listening session — the first one in English — which was held the next morning, June 16, in her Keys parish.

As he had done the night before, Archbishop Thomas Wenski sat and listened to his flock for more than an hour. As he said at the beginning of each session, “I have come here to listen, not to talk.”

He did, however, set the tone for each session with an opening “parable” about a life-saving station for the shipwrecked that loses sight of its mission over the years.

The parable provides food for thought as participants in the listening sessions respond to the three questions asked: What is the Church in Miami doing right? What could the Church in Miami do better? What could the Church in Miami do in the future that it is not doing now?

Synod FYI
  • You can attend any listening session that is convenient, regardless of the parish you attend or the county where you live.
  • If you cannot attend a listening session in person, you can obtain the feedback form after July 1 by calling the Synod Office, 305-762-1088, or emailing jdebs@theadom.org. General inquiries also are welcome at synod@theadom.org.
  • Synod Director Rosemarie Banich is helping everyone keep up with synod happenings by writing a Synod Snapshot that is emailed weekly to subscribers to the archdiocese’s email blasts. If you are not subscribed, go to www.miamiarch.org and click on My Account at the top, right-hand side of the page, or on the email icon at the bottom right.
  • You can also share your email address with the archdiocese by writing it on the feedback form, and we will add you to our mailing list.
Although participants in the listening sessions get to share their thoughts directly with the archbishop — and synod coordinator Jacqueline Debs transcribes their comments on her laptop — speaking out is not essential. The most important aspect of the listening sessions is filling out the feedback forms, which will be compiled and grouped into focus areas. 

Focus teams will then study their particular area of expertise and make SMART — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely — recommendations, which the archbishop and his synod leadership team will then figure out how to implement.

Participants at the first two sessions — about 250 in Hialeah and 50 in the Keys — repeatedly expressed their desire to see more outreach to young people and open more, and more affordable, Catholic schools.

“We’re losing the battle with youths,” said one participant at the Immaculate session, a sentiment echoed repeatedly by participants in the Keys.

But suggestions ran the gamut: from not leaving pastors in the same parish for too long to focusing more on the needs of the poor; from doing a better job of teaching the faith to adults to using television to project a better image of the Church; from organizing a Corpus Christi procession through the streets of downtown Miami to hosting more inter-parochial events so Catholics can get to know each other across parish boundaries.

Participants at the listening session in San Pablo sing a hymn to begin the session.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Participants at the listening session in San Pablo sing a hymn to begin the session.

Among the things the Church in South Florida is doing properly, participants cited its lay ministry formation program, the re-opening of closed parishes and this second general synod itself.

“It’s been a privilege for me to be able to listen to you,” Archbishop Wenski said at the end of the listening sessions.

“We should do this every year,” said a pleased Ramona Morina of St. John the Apostle Parish in Hialeah.
To see more photos of the first two synod listening sessions, click on any of the photos above or click here.

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