Two years ago, at the 2005 Chrism Mass, I convoked our First General Synod of our Diocese. I said then: “A synod is a “coming together” of our Catholic family to examine our response to the universal call to holiness, our pastoral care of the faithful and our commitment to evangelize and witness to God’s kingdom here in the Diocese of Orlando.” Inspired by Pope John Paul II’s post jubilee exhortation, Novo Milenio Ineunte, the synod was truly a “putting out into the deep”, trusting that God would provide us with a miraculous catch.
The Synod involved an unprecedented number of faithful here in the Diocese. Many participated in listening sessions. Others filled out in-pew surveys, while still others prayed daily for the success of the Synod process. Almost 1000 men and women from virtually every parish in our diocese participated in one or more of the twenty synod commissions. At the Synod Assembly last August, marking its formal conclusion,
I was presented with an impressive book containing recommendations and strategic plans: all aimed at a pastoral revitalization of our parishes, schools and other institutions. The theme of the Synod, “Starting Afresh from Christ”, was more than a catchy phrase; it described what was and what must continue to be our starting point as we seek to face the challenges of the present with enthusiasm and to prepare for the challenges of the future with confidence.
The pace of activity happening in our Diocese since the Synod confirms that the Synod Assembly last August was not a “ending”; but a real “commencement”. It was a new beginning through which we wish to effect a pastoral revitalization of our parishes, schools and other institutions. Already, hard at work, is the newly formed Diocesan Pastoral Council, assisted by three other implementation teams, one working with our Catholic Charities, one with our Catholic Schools and the last involved in setting up a new entity in our Diocese, the Catholic Foundation of Central Florida, charged with building a sound financial platform to advance our mission and provide long term sustainability for our various ministries.
As I said above the Synod was engaged in strategic planning; the Diocesan Pastoral Council and the other implementation teams are now working to make those plans operational. The Synod, which really did represent a “fresh start from Christ” for us, has outlined an exciting vision for the future, a vision that calls on all of us Catholics here in Central Florida to be “Witnesses to Hope, Alive in Christ”. While we have many “plans” to be implemented, there is behind them one fundamental plan, 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).
Incumbent on each one of us then is: the need to grow in our personal, living relationship with Christ and to assure that our parishes, schools and other ministries also respond to the demands of growth in our area; the need to lead our fellow brothers and sisters to a new experience of holiness and abundant life in Christ; the need to share God’s love, by selflessly contributing our time, talent and treasure, to offer a future of hope to all who need us.
More details will follow in coming months. In the meantime, I ask for your continued prayers that the Lord will bring this good work begun in our diocese to a successful completion in the weeks and months ahead.