In preparation for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s 2014 Synod, the Church of the Gesu held its first of two parish reflection sessions Sunday. Gesu parishioners and church-goers were invited to discuss reform in the Archdiocese.
The synod, the first held by the archdiocese since 1987, will be “an assembly where the faithful deliberate on the pastoral needs of the diocese,” according to the Archdiocese’s website. Upon completion, it will map out Archdiocese reform that is set to occur over the next 10 to 15 years.
An estimated 25 participants at Sunday’s reflection session discussed Catholic identity and evangelization. The subdued role of Catholic women and low church approachability were some of the congregational issues identified by participants.
Mike Heimbach, facilitator of Sunday’s proceedings and Gesu parishioner, emphasized evangelization since the average age of departing Catholics is 23 years old.
“Evangelization is about reaching out to those who may have abandoned their faith and conversion within one’s own life, which is an ongoing process,” Heimbach said. “My prayer is that these meetings will inspire a greater fire within each and every one of you.”
Session participants filled out feedback forms with their ideas and stances on revision in the Archdiocese. The forms will be reviewed and discussed at the Synod during Pentecost Weekend in June.
Heimbach said improvement ideas have come from an assortment of ages, including college students and teenagers.
“We’re seeing the church from a variety of different perspectives and that’s what we’re hoping for the remainder of our listening sessions here at Gesu,” Heimbach said.
Before stepping down from the papacy last February, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called for a Year of Faith. In response to his call, the Archbishop of Milwaukee, Jerome E. Listecki, wrote a pastoral letter titled “Who do you say that I am?”
Listecki said his purpose in writing the letter was to lay the groundwork for development of the southeastern Wisconsin Church.
“In scripture, Jesus challenged the disciples to answer the question who do you say that I am?” Listecki said in a pre-recorded video message shown during the reflection session. “The real response came from Peter who answered, ‘You are the son of God, the Messiah, the one we pray for.’ Christ’s question inspires us to act differently and by acknowledging Peter’s answer, we are all called to commit ourselves to the work of Jesus Christ.”
Similar parish reflection sessions are being held in Catholic churches across Milwaukee in order to gauge the city’s opinions regarding the Archdiocese’s spiritual structure.
The next Parish Reflection Session at Gesu is set to take place in the lower church at 10:15 a.m. Oct. 27.