Cardinal Wuerl greets some of the Archdiocese of Washington Synod participants attending an Oct. 5 preparatory meeting at the Pastoral Center in Hyattsville. They are, from left to right, Deacon Perfecto Santiago of Saint Mary of the Mills Parish in Laurel; Fatima Aybar and Mevis Clark of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington; June Dublin of Saint Michael the Archangel Parish in Silver Spring; and Houston Roberson of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Washington. CS PHOTO BY LESLIE KOSSOFF
Cardinal Wuerl greets some of the Archdiocese of Washington Synod participants attending an Oct. 5 preparatory meeting at the Pastoral Center in Hyattsville. They are, from left to right, Deacon Perfecto Santiago of Saint Mary of the Mills Parish in Laurel; Fatima Aybar and Mevis Clark of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington; June Dublin of Saint Michael the Archangel Parish in Silver Spring; and Houston Roberson of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Washington. CS PHOTO BY LESLIE KOSSOFF
The preparatory phase of the Synod of the Archdiocese of Washington continues to be underway, with clergy, lay and religious Synod participants meeting at the Pastoral Center on Oct. 5 in their ongoing work to help draw up a blueprint for the archdiocese's future outreach, to coincide with its 75th anniversary in 2014.

On Pentecost Sunday this past May, Cardinal Wuerl issued a decree initiating the formal beginning of the Synod's preparatory phase, and he announced his intention to convoke the final session of the archdiocesan Synod on Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2014. Also on Pentecost this year, participating members of the Synod - including bishops, priests, deacons, laity and religious from across the archdiocese - were commissioned.

In preparation of the Synod's work, extensive consultations were held, with all local Catholics invited to participate in parish listening sessions across the archdiocese, or through online surveys, to reflect on the five key areas of worship, education, community, service and administration/stewardship.

"All of us are invited to reflect on how the Archdiocese of Washington can be the best local Church that the Church calls us to be," the cardinal said in his Pentecost homily announcing the Synod. He said the Synod's work was being launched in the context of the Year of Faith and every Catholic's call to the New Evangelization, to deepen their faith and share it with others.

At the third meeting of the Synod Preparatory Session on Oct. 5, the Synod participants continued their work of reviewing and summarizing the input that Catholics throughout the archdiocese offered at the parish and regional listening sessions and through the online surveys. Local Catholics offered more than 15,000 suggestions which Synod staff recorded and organized, noting key points that had reached a level of consensus among those offering input.

Washington Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout, the chair for the General Preparatory Commission, which has oversight for the entire Synod process, welcomed Synod participants at the October meeting and reviewed the purpose of their work. "An archdiocesan synod provides an opportunity to look at the life of the local Church, to evaluate areas where the ministry of the Church is successful and areas where there may be need for more attention so that we can better prepare ourselves to carry forward the work of the Church into the future." Input was gathered from local Catholics "with the aim of providing pastoral direction for the future work of our archdiocesan Church," he said.

Synod participants at the Oct. 5 gathering, divided into subcommittees for the five key areas of worship, education, community, service and administration/stewardship, continued their work in identifying 10-12 final recommendations in each of the areas. They reviewed draft recommendations to make sure they were clear, actionable, reflected subsidiarity and were not redundant.

Msgr. Charles Pope, the chair for the Synod's General Pastoral Preparatory Commission, noted that the consultation and recommendations will shape the archdiocese's policies and guide the Church's work for the future. Final recommendations should be able to be implemented by parishes in a manner consistent with the mission and teaching of the Church, and recognize the importance of including all cultures in the life and leadership of the archdiocese, its parishes and organizations, he said.

The priest, who serves as pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Parish in Washington, also underscored the importance of recommendations reflecting the call to the New Evangelization, that Catholics grow in the understanding of their faith and their confidence in it, "and then share Jesus Christ and his Church with others."

Msgr. Charles Antonicelli, the chair for the Synod's Canonical Preparatory Commission, also addressed participants at the October meeting. The priest, who serves as the archdiocese's vicar for canonical services, noted that his commission's role would be to review existing archdiocesan policies and procedures, and to make recommendations for any areas that might need revision or change, and then to prepare a compilation of all archdiocesan policies that will be readily available online. Existing policies deal with matters including liturgical norms, child protection, Catholic schools, and religious education, and include guidelines for parish pastoral and finance councils.

During interviews, the Synod participants expressed their hopes for its outcome. "I hope that it brings many of the people back to church, and that they find peace with one another and understanding. There's so much for us to learn on this journey of building a better relationship with God," said Luis Gorres, a parishioner of St. Martin of Tours in Gaithersburg who works as an IT consultant and was serving on the Synod's service subcommittee.

Barbara Rondeau, a veteran parish religious education volunteer at St. Hugh Parish in Greenbelt and a longtime local college educator, said narrowing down the final recommendations "requires a great bit of fine-tuning and detail work."

A member of the education subcommittee, she said she hoped the final recommendations would emphasize faith formation for all ages, especially for adults. "You can educate children in the faith, but you have to make sure that formation continues throughout their adult lives," she said.

Dante Figueroa, a member of St. Ann Parish in Washington who is a lawyer working in legal research at the Library of Congress, said he felt honored to participate in the Synod work, and he said that by tackling the challenges the Church is facing, local Catholics can help bring about what Pope Benedict XVI emphasized during his 2008 visit to Washington - a new springtime for the Catholic Church in the United States.

Synod participant Gertrude Ann Lyles, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in La Plata who works as a software developer at the Navy Yard, said, "I'm a cradle Catholic. I've been with the Church a long time. For me, it (this effort) is to keep it going, to make it relevant to the kids coming up today."

Her fellow parishioner Margaret Foster-Massey, who is now retired but volunteers with the Charles County Literacy Council teaching reading, also praised the preparatory work for the Synod, "to know that we have a 2,000 year-old Church that's willing to come to the modern ages and bring all her people with her."

Juan Pablo Segura, a 25-year-old member of Epiphany Parish in Washington who is an entrepreneur, is serving on the Synod's community subcommittee. "The fact that you've got priests, bishops, sisters and laypeople looking at specific recommendations and accomplishments that will improve the Church is refreshing," he said. Segura hopes the end result will be "a more dynamic Church that really meets the needs of not only those already participating, but those who are looking."

In closing remarks, Cardinal Wuerl praised the Synod participants for the progress they had made, and he expressed hope that by the group's next meeting on Nov. 16, "we should be very close to what we are all trying to say as a Synod."

"We're well on the way, but the work isn't done yet," the cardinal said. "If I could use a football analogy, I think we have moved the ball way down field. We're probably within field goal range, but we're only going to settle for a touchdown."