During a June 8 Pentecost Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, receives a paschal candle as a 75th anniversary gift for the Archdiocese of Washington from Baltimore Archbishop William Lori. The candle contains the coats of arms of the Archdiocese of Washington and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and the date 1939, the year that Pope Pius XII established the Archdiocese of Washington, which had been part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the nation's first Catholic diocese founded in 1789. (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
During a June 8 Pentecost Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, receives a paschal candle as a 75th anniversary gift for the Archdiocese of Washington from Baltimore Archbishop William Lori. The candle contains the coats of arms of the Archdiocese of Washington and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and the date 1939, the year that Pope Pius XII established the Archdiocese of Washington, which had been part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the nation's first Catholic diocese founded in 1789. (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
Convoking the first Archdiocesan Synod on Pentecost, Cardinal Donald Wuerl said the widespread effort among local Catholics to build a better Church for the future marked a "new beginning" for the Archdiocese of Washington on its 75th anniversary. In a June 8 Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, the cardinal said that just as the Holy Spirit emboldened the hearts of the Apostles at the first Pentecost to bring Christ's Good News to the world, so too the Synod represented "the Spirit at work in this great archdiocesan Church" and would mark a continuing effort by local Catholics to be Christ's witnesses in today's world.

"The time of our Archdiocesan Synod has been a new beginning of renewal in the life of faith. With our hearts revived and transformed by Jesus, with the new life of the Spirit within us, every day going forward in our local Church should be a new Pentecost," the cardinal said in his homily.

At the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl formally accepted the Synod recommendations, which offer a blueprint for future archdiocesan and parish outreach in the key areas of worship, education, community, service, administration and stewardship. The Synod's work also resulted in Cardinal Wuerl approving and promulgating statutes for renewed and updated archdiocesan policies and procedures related to those key areas.

During the homily, the cardinal noted that the Church defines a Synod "as a gathering of laity, religious and clergy reflective of the local Church to review the efforts of the Church to carry out the ministry entrusted to it by Christ."

The final session of the Archdiocesan Synod on Pentecost marked the culmination of a two-year effort by more than 200 delegates who included lay women and men representing the different regions and diverse communities within the archdiocese, and also included priests, deacons, religious sisters and brothers, and Washington's bishops. Cardinal Wuerl initiated the effort in Lent 2012, as the delegates began to meet, and local Catholics offered 15,000 suggestions through parish and regional listening sessions and via online surveys. Delegates analyzed that input which set forth spiritual and pastoral priorities for the local Church, and held a series of meetings to refine and summarize the suggestions, and on May 10, the group reached a general consensus in support of the statutes and recommendations resulting from that extensive consultative and collaborative effort.

"Our Archdiocesan Synod has been a time to take stock, with honesty and humility, of the condition of our spiritual home, particularly in the key areas of worship, education, community, service, stewardship and administration," the cardinal said. "In this prayerful process, input from the faithful was gathered with the goal of providing concrete direction so that we can better prepare ourselves to carry forward the work of the Church into the future."

The cardinal, who thanked the delegates for their faith and service, said that it was fitting that the Synod coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Washington, and he noted at the Mass that the Synod marked an effort to build on the archdiocese's heritage of faith as it set forth "a pathway for the future."

During the Mass, Baltimore Archbishop William Lori presented Cardinal Wuerl with a large paschal candle that includes the year of the establishment of the Archdiocese of Washington in 1939, and the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, founded in 1789 as the nation's first Catholic diocese, and the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Washington, formed initially to include the nation's capital and later expanded to include the five surrounding Maryland counties, all territory that had been part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Archbishop Lori noted the historic link and ongoing collaborative efforts between the two archdioceses, and "the rich heritage of faith and freedom which both archdioceses share." He said he presented the candle "with the hope that the flame of faith will burn brightly in both archdioceses for years to come, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls."

The Mass for the Archdiocesan Synod opened with the hymn, "Come Holy Ghost," and Cardinal Wuerl and the five bishops and 30 priests who concelebrated the Mass with him wore red vestments, the color signifying the Holy Spirit which appeared to the Apostles as tongues of fire. The Synod delegates sat in the front section of the majestic cathedral. The concelebrating bishops included Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington; Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the United States; Washington Auxiliary Bishops Martin Holley and Barry Knestout; and retired Auxiliary Bishop Francisco Gonzalez.

After Cardinal Wuerl gave his homily, Bishop Knestout, the archdiocese's Moderator of the Curia who served as chairman of the Synod's General Preparatory Commission, presented the cardinal with the Synod statutes and recommendations. The bishop noted that the effort represented "a comprehensive reflection on the needs of the people of God of this archdiocesan church."

The Synod's statutes and recommendations and Cardinal Wuerl's pastoral letter on the Synod titled, "Manifesting the Kingdom," may be found online at www.adw.org/synod .

The cardinal said the process examining how the Archdiocese of Washington "can be the best Church we're called to be... has led us to today," building a better Church for the future, building on the archdiocese's foundation and heritage of faith.

After Communion, Archbishop Vigano offered congratulations to the Archdiocese of Washington, and expressed hope that the Synod would help local Catholics carry out their call for the New Evangelization, to deepen their faith and share it with others. Cardinal Wuerl presented him with copies of the Synod documents and asked him to give them to Pope Francis, who had expressed his blessing for the effort during a recent meeting with the cardinal.

In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl expressed hope that the fruits of the Synod would result in the Holy Spirit transforming the hearts of local Catholics, so that the New Evangelization would permeate their lives and the outreach of the archdiocese.

The power of the Holy Spirit is ongoing, he said, and that outpouring continued in the work of the Synod, and should continue as local Catholics seek to manifest God's kingdom in their community, here and now. The Mass concluded with the hymn, "Go To the World."

"The conclusion of our Synod is not so much an ending as it is a new beginning," Cardinal Wuerl said in his homily. "This renewal of faith and fervor in our spiritual family is not meant to be a one-time event for the history books. Rather, it has the purpose of forming, informing and directing the mission and life in the Spirit of our local Church into the future."

"This first Synod of the Archdiocese of Washington belongs to all of us," the cardinal said.