As the June 11 diocesan pre-synodal gathering nears, the diocesan synod team is reviewing the data collected during in-person listening sessions and by online participants.
Parishes and other entities in the eight-county Diocese of Cleveland were invited to send a group of delegates to the daylong June 11 event. At the gathering, they will pray, reflect on their experience with the diocesan synodal process, listen to feedback from the listening sessions, engage in dialogue about the current reality of the Church and discern the Holy Spirit’s call for the diocese on the path of synodality.
Lynette Saenz, assistant director of Parish Life and Special Ministries, serves as co-coordinator of the diocesan synodal process with Father Damian Ference, vicar for evangelization and secretary of Parish Life and Special Ministries. They were appointed last fall by Bishop Edward Malesic after Pope Francis announced the synod.
“A lot was asked of us in a short time,” Father Ference said, noting the fast pace of the synodal process. He called the experience “eye-opening.”
The process included training facilitators to guide participants through in-person listening sessions, collecting data from each session and compiling it. Those unable to participate in an in-person session could complete the process online. That data also is being compiled.
Saenz is distilling the results and will have a diocesan report ready to submit to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops next month. The USCCB will compile a national report and present it to the pope, along with other nations across the world.
The synodal process began during the coronavirus pandemic, which posed some challenges, Saenz said. However, they ended up with a better-than-expected result.
“We hoped for about 30% participation,” Father Ference said, “and we doubled that. Plus, 50% of the participants were young people.”
The in-person demographics show that of the 11,646 participants as of May 1, 62% were female and 38% were male. Breakdown by age was 43% younger than 18; 8% 18-29 years old; and 49% 30 or older. There was participation from all eight counties in the diocese: Ashland, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Summit and Wayne. Sixty percent of the parishes and 90% of the colleges in the diocese participated in the process.
In addition to parishes, other groups that participated included diocesan employees, priests, seminarians, catechists,Catholic school teachers, diocesan advisory committees, religious orders, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland ministries, schools and young adult groups.
Saenz said data from the more than 600 people who participated in the process online shows that 55% were female and 43% were male. Thirty-three percent were younger than 18, 13% were ages 18-39; 18% were 40-59 and 36% were 60 or older. Again, participation was spread across the eight counties of the diocese.
Saenz admitted the task was challenging, but said the Holy Father encouraged the dioceses to try. She and Father Ference said they are pleased to have had such a strong response.
Another member of the diocesan team who served as a facilitator for some in-person listening sessions said many of the participating parishes found it to be the beginning of a dynamic process.
“This data will not sit on a shelf and collect dust,” Saenz said, explaining Pope Francis said it was an opportunity for people to share their thoughts on the Church for the third millennium. She expects parishes and other diocesan entities soon will find ways to implement some of the findings.
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