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All aboard synod 'train'

Listening sessions set, invitations sent out: Archdiocese's second synod begins

Rosemarie Banich, a native South Floridian, graduate of St. Rose of Lima elementary, Archbishop Curley Notre Dame High School and the University of Miami law school, started work April 16 as synod director for the Archdiocese of Miami.


Rosemarie Banich, a native South Floridian, graduate of St. Rose of Lima elementary, Archbishop Curley Notre Dame High School and the University of Miami law school, started work April 16 as synod director for the Archdiocese of Miami.

MIAMI — The second general synod of the Archdiocese of Miami is going to be fast, focused and forward-looking — and it will be Rosemarie Banich’s job to keep it moving.

“I’m the conductor of the synod train,” said Banich, an attorney by training and a religion teacher by vocation, who has been appointed director of the synod.

“My role is to make sure that the train is, first of all, always moving, constantly forward, because we are in a tight time frame,” she said during an interview at the end of April, less than a month after being appointed to the position.

She added that part of her duty as conductor is “to make sure everyone knows where this train is going, and to make sure that everyone who wants to participate is given the opportunity.”

In fact, the synod train already has left the station. Archbishop Thomas Wenski convoked the synod during the annual chrism Mass with all the archdiocesan priests April 3. By the end of the month, the dates of the 10 listening sessions had been set and the synod website — — had been established.

Aside from being up on the synod website, the dates of the listening sessions and the invitation to take part in them were included in the parish bulletins of all the archdiocesan churches the weekend of May 12-13.

The sessions begin Friday, June 15 and conclude Saturday, June 30 (see box). There will be five in English, three in Spanish and two in Creole; one in Monroe County, five in Miami-Dade and four in Broward. And Archbishop Wenski — along with Banich — will be present at all of them.

During the sessions, participants will be asked three questions: What is the Church of Miami doing well? What can the Church of Miami do better? What three priorities should the archdiocese focus on in the next three to four years?

The listening sessions — which will last two hours — will keep participants focused on those questions, Banich said. They will begin with prayer followed by some comments from the archbishop, and then time for personal reflection, sharing in small groups and sharing the results of the small group discussion with all the participants.

“The synod process is pastoral planning,” Banich said. “It is looking at actual work in your local Church as opposed to doctrinal traditions. It’s a very action-oriented process as opposed to a theoretical or theological process.”

Those who cannot attend a listening session in person will be able to answer the same three questions in an online form that will be posted on the website July 1. The form can also be obtained and faxed or mailed in by calling Banich’s right-hand person, Jacqueline Debs, who is serving as synod coordinator.

The listening period will continue through the end of September. By that time, the work of compiling all the feedback will have begun, and the task of studying the results and coming up with recommendations will fall to around 15 Focus Area Teams composed of between 8 and 10 volunteers each.

“The issues that are arising most often, those are going to become our focus areas,” Banich said.

Catholics are invited to apply to serve on the focus teams, but they have to commit to attending at least four of five monthly meetings between October 2012 and February 2013, and doing some serious homework in between.

“It’s a big commitment but it’s also a very special opportunity to be part of a historic moment for the archdiocese,” Banich said.

Their task will be to come up with “SMART” goals, which means “not just a pipe dream but very specific and attainable goals,” she added.

In March 2013, an Integrated Planning Team will begin studying the SMART goals proposed by the focus teams and determining their attainability, given the resources of the archdiocese in terms of finances, buildings and personnel.

“We want the synod to conclude with very, very actionable items,” said Banich, who will be facilitating all the focus team meetings.

The aim is for the closing assembly of the synod to take place in the fall of 2013, at which time an Integrated Archdiocesan Plan will be issued.

Banich and Debs will be helped in the synod process by staff of the Catholic Leadership Institute, creators of the Good Shepherds, Good Leaders program for priests and Tending the Talents for lay people.

“What they bring is a leadership model that is very unique,” Banich said. It consists of “very high level” leadership training that could be used at any Fortune 500 company but is “integrated with our Catholic faith.”

Synod Leadership Team
The members of the archdiocese’s Synod Leadership Team will begin meeting this month. Their role is to serve as a steering committee for the overall work of the synod. The team members are:
  • Archbishop Thomas Wenski 
  • Vilma Angulo
  • Michelle Ducker
  • Mother Adela Galindo, Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary 
  • Manny Garcia-Tuñon 
  • Josephine Gilbert 
  • Emilio González 
  • Deacon Jorge González 
  • Father Reginald Jean Marie 
  • Deacon Steven Lee 
  • Father José Luis Menéndez 
  • Sister Rosalie Nagy, Carmelites of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles
  • Msgr. Pablo Navarro
Serving as coordinating staff for the leadership team are:
  • Rosemarie Banich, director of the synod
  • Dan Cellucci, Father Bill Dickinson, Barbara Eckert, Christina Hannon and Janna Kerr, all of the Catholic Leadership Institute
Staff from the institute will be facilitating the synod listening sessions and providing leadership training to the Focus Area Teams and the Synod Leadership Team, a group of 13 priests, religious and laity, including the archbishop, who will serve as a steering committee for the overall synod. They begin their work this month. (See box)

“That’s why we feel that this process can be accomplished in the time frame being requested. From the get-go, nothing is random,” said Banich, who brings a unique background to her role as synod train “conductor.”

She knows the Archdiocese because she grew up here, a graduate of St. Rose of Lima in Miami Shores and Archbishop Curley-Notre Dame High School in Miami. She also speaks Spanish — with a Castilian accent — because her mother’s side of the family is from Madrid, Spain.

After obtaining a degree in English from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Banich returned home to earn a law degree from the University of Miami. She specialized in disability discrimination cases until moving to California, where she took up teaching, both at the college level and in her parish’s religious education program.

She eventually became director of religious education and youth and young adult ministry at the parish. With her husband and son, she moved back to Miami Shores is 2011 and promptly volunteered as a Virtus facilitator with the archdiocese’s Safe Environment program.

She sees her experience both as a trial attorney and as a teacher as giving her a “serendipitous” combination of skills with which to “conduct” the synod train. The legal side helps her with strategizing and organizing large-scale projects; the teaching side helps her explain to people what the synod is and will do for the archdiocese; and having worked on a parish staff, “I’m very familiar with the workings of a parish.”

Besides, “synod director” is not a common title. “A synod is a pretty rare occurrence,” Banich said. “It was a unique position.”

To contact the archdiocesan Synod Office, call 305-762-1189 or 305-762-1088; email; or go to

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