How Are We Journeying Together?

Quote from Bishop Parkes

“This Synod offers us the opportunity to be present to each other, to invite our family and friends back to the faith, to listen to each other’s joys and sorrows, and to share our hopes and dreams for the future.”

-Bishop Gregory Parkes

About the Synod on Synodality

Pope Francis is inviting the Catholic Church to journey together, specifically through the Synod on Synodality.  The Diocese of St. Petersburg participated in the Diocesan phase of the Synod between October 2021 and March 2022 through listening and discernment sessions rooted in the Holy Spirit. A report has been created to highlight the feedback that has been received. Below you will find highlights from the report and then links to download the full report and infographics. This information represents the many voices that responded to the Holy Father’s invitation to pray for and reflect upon the future of the Church. The first Synod of Bishops on Synodality, scheduled for Oct. 4-29, 2023, at the Vatican will have the task of discerning the concrete steps which enable the continued growth of a synodal Church. Some questions will require further discernment and study with the help of theologians and canon lawyers, which is why a second assembly of the Synod will be held in October 2024.

Diocese of St. Petersburg Synod Report By the Numbers

13 members of the Synod Planning Team were appointed by Bishop Gregory Parkes. The team was comprised of eight men and five women, including clergy, religious, lay staff and volunteers.

156 Synod Listening Sessions were held in all five counties. The Sessions focused on prayer, catechesis, and discernment

6,480 participants attended Sessions in multiple languages. Diverse groups included migrants, non-Catholics, the homebound, and the homeless.

Synod Report Recurring Themes

“What consensus emerged regarding what the Holy Spirit is calling the Church to do better?” Answers to this question were extensive and diverse during the many Synod Listening Sessions held around the Diocese of St. Petersburg.  Yet, these answers have been grouped together into five sets of themes based on the frequency in which they were mentioned.

  1. Prioritize Outreach and Evangelization. The demographic most noted to which the Church is called to reach is youth and young adults.
  2. Improve Communication. Parishes, ministries, Pastoral Center staff, and bishops have room to grow regarding communication.
  3. Enhance Unity. Build community, encourage dialogue, and reduce judgmentalism.
  4. Focus on Scripture, Ecumenism, and Vocations. Show greater pastoral sensitivity toward women and toward Catholics who experience same-sex attraction.
  5. Increase opportunities for reconciliation, small groups & Church teaching on morality. Foster deeper appreciation for Catholic moral and social teaching and deepen communion with God and others

Synod Report Next Steps

Bishop Parkes will submit the diocesan Final Report to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). A team from the USCCB will develop a country report (comprised of all the dioceses in the United States) for the Continental Phase of the Synod process. The Bishops’ Conferences of the USA and Canada will then develop a combined report for the Synod of Bishops for the development of their world-wide report. Bishops and others will gather with the Holy Father in the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October of 2023 to discern how the Holy Spirit has been speaking to the Church during this process, and to communicate this to the universal Church.

Through the Synodal Process, the Diocese of St. Petersburg identified three immediate areas the Spirit is inviting us to address locally in order to grow in our “journeying together.”  These areas are an outgrowth of what we heard during our listening and discernment sessions, and follow the Synodal themes of Communion, Participation and Mission.

Communion:  Fervently Work on Communication with our Parishes and the Faithful

The Pastoral Center (Chancery) will take steps to improve and open communication lines with pastors and their lay staffs. 

In the various areas of ministry at the Pastoral Center, we will form advisory teams so that Diocesan leaders may better serve and be more collaborative with our local parishes, schools, lay associations, and other diocesan entities, (similar to the apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, on reforming the Roman Curia).

Most Reverend Gregory Parkes is prolific on social media, highlighting the good works within the Diocese and addressing the relevant concerns of the world through Catholic teaching and response.  It is the hope and prayer that his upcoming medical procedure will ultimately allow him to engage more fully in the ministry to which he has been called.

Participation:  Increase Collaboration Among Clergy and Laity

Bishop Parkes is initiating steps of support for parishes, schools and diocesan entities in the formation and implementation of consultative/synodal structures (including Pastoral Councils), in accordance with the expected Vatican document from the 2023 Synod on Synodality.  Planning processes and training will be provided to parishes and schools on best practices for consultation and collaboration among the lay volunteer disciples, lay ecclesial ministers, and clergy. Training will including discernment processes, collaboration, hospitality, and formational training of pastoral councils, finance councils, ministerial commissions, and boards and committees, both at the diocesan and parish/school levels.

Other forms of collaboration within the Diocese include more effective and intentional collaboration between parishes and school at the Deanery level.  Mentorships between new pastors, new clergy, and new lay ecclesial ministers are also being established.

Mission:   Expand the Transformational Parish Growth Summit

The Synod process expressed people’s deep desire for others to develop a close relationship with Christ and His Church. Many expressed concern and disappointment that a significant number of Catholics are not practicing their faith and hoped that they would come back.  Hearing and sharing this concern, Bishop Parkes initiated the Transformational Parish Growth Summit.  Providing 32 hours of praying, learning, dreaming, and envisioning concrete plans for filling our churches, the theme for the full-immersion Summit, which was held April 25-27, 2022, was based on Luke 14:23, the Parable of the Great Feast. In this Parable, Jesus speaks of a dinner that was prepared, but those who were invited never showed. The Master then orders the servant to find new people to invite so that “My house may be filled.”

However, this was not a one-time effort.  Working collaboratively with other parishes and schools and accompanied by members of the Pastoral Center and other ministerial organizations, faith leaders will work throughout the next few years on concrete ways to invite people to Church and engage them more fully as disciples.

Full Report and Infographics:

Stay Informed on the Vatican Process

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