During Holy Week’s Chrism Mass celebrated at Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine, I announced the formal convocation of a Diocesan Synod – an assembly of the People of God of this local church, clergy and laity from throughout the nine-county area that makes up our diocese here in Central Florida. Over the next year and a half, together we will engage in a strategic planning process for our Diocese. Through the synod process, you, the Catholic people of the Diocese of Orlando, will recommend to me as your new shepherd a course of action so that we “starting afresh from Christ” might meet the challenges of evangelization in this new century.
The years ahead will bring new opportunities and challenges. For me, this underscores our urgent need for prayerful consideration of our call to conversion and holiness, and our need to forge a common vision and plan for the Diocese of Orlando in its many expressions throughout Central Florida – our parishes, our schools, Catholic Charities and the many other organizations that bear witness to our life changing work.
In the words of our Holy Father, “Now is the time for each local church to assess its fervor and find fresh enthusiasm for its spiritual and pastoral responsibilities…” For “it is in the local church that the specific features of a detailed pastoral plan can be identified – goals and methods, formation and enrichment of the people involved, the search for the necessary resources – which will enable the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mold communities and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture.” (Novo Millennio Ineunte)
Like the bishops who have gone before me whose contributions to the life of this local church I gratefully acknowledge, I also must turn to people like you to seek your counsel, your collaboration and your support. Together we must devote our best efforts to proclaim the gospel more compellingly, to foster the growth in holiness of our people more coherently, and to transmit the treasure of our faith to the younger generation more effectively.
The purpose of the Synod will be to examine what we must do as a community of faith. We have to translate into pastoral initiatives or goals, adapted to our circumstances, the “plan found in the gospel and the living tradition to make Christ known, loved and imitated so that in Him we may live the life of the Trinity and with Him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem.” (Novo Millennio Ineunte). The Synod will be specifically designed to help us understand the needs of those whom we serve. We will listen to the needs of the faithful, and at the same time, we will be prepared to act on those needs.
In the coming weeks and months ahead you will learn more about the Synod process. Through special listening sessions to be scheduled in each of our deaneries, through surveys and other means of soliciting wide input from all Catholics in our diocese, I hope to receive sound advice and counsel to assist me as your Bishop in the responsibilities entrusted to me to teach, rule and sanctify this local Church as we make our pilgrim way to God’s Kingdom.
The Synod, the first in the history of our still young diocese, with God’s help and our active collaboration, can be for us the beginning of an exciting work of pastoral revitalization. Starting afresh from Christ, we will be able to face the challenges of the present with enthusiasm and to prepare for the challenges of the future with confidence.