After months of training facilitators, conducting listening sessions both in person and online and preparing reports, more than 250 people gathered on June 11 for the conclusion of the diocesan pre-synod process.
The daylong pre-synodal gathering took place at Public Auditorium in downtown Cleveland. Attendees represented parishes, religious congregations, young adults, seminarians, clergy and other constituencies throughout the Diocese of Cleveland.
(See photo gallery above.)
Co-directors for the diocesan synodal process were Father Damian Ference, vicar for evangelization and director of the Parish Life and Special Ministries Office, and Lynette Saenz, assistant director of Parish Life and Special Ministries.
“The response to the synod in our diocese far exceeded our expectations, especially in light of all the challenges that we faced with timing and the pandemic,” Saenz said, thanking all who were involved with the process.
The day began with a welcome and opening prayer. Bishop Edward Malesic planned to spend the day at the event, but due to the death of his father, he was unable to attend. However, Bishop-elect Michael Woost was there.
Bishop Malesic wrote an introductory message for the gathering, recalling his homily for the opening Mass of the diocesan synod on Oct. 17, 2021 in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. “On that day, I preached about a Church on mission in this world, in communion with one another and walking together toward our heavenly home. I was encouraged,” participation from as many people as possible in this synodal work of being the Church that proclaims and lives Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he wrote.
The bishop said he was “thrilled to report that in only a few months, we have heard from almost 12,000 different voices at our synodal listening sessions from across the eight counties of the Diocese of Cleveland, with over 160 reports received. I am so grateful to all who participated in those listening sessions and to all who helped organize them,” he added.
Attendees heard a panel discussion featuring Deacon David Chojnacki, who was ordained a transitional deacon last month; A.J. Hoy, Newman campus minister at the College of Wooster; Marian Koenig, a wife, mother, grandmother and staff member at the Center for Pastoral Leadership; and Sister Juana Mendez, SC, pastoral associate at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.
Attendees were assigned to tables at which they discussed three themes during the day: communion, participation and mission. There were multiple subcategories for each theme. After a timed discussion period during which each person shared their thoughts, a representative of each table presented an emerging action to share with the group.
Saenz said data collected during the in-person and online listening sessions is being distilled into a diocesan report that will be submitted to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at the end of the month. That information will be compiled into a national report and submitted in Rome.
She said parishes are encouraged to implement any action items or ideas they think will be helpful as they plan how to move forward together as a Church on mission.
As the event drew to a close, Mike Hayes, director of the Office of Young Adult Ministry, asked attendees to think about what moved their hearts during the gathering and how it will propel them into action.
Staff members assisting with the event included Miguel Chavez, director, Office of Missionary Discipleship; Gregory Coogan, secretary for catechetical formation; Francine Costantini, director, Office of Youth Ministry; Pattie Batchman, director, Office of Lay Ecclesial Ministry; Judy Liederbach, Office for Worship; Teresa Yohman, director, Office of Marriage and Family Ministry; Mary von Carlowitz, director, Office for Human Life; Sharon Minson, Office for Protection of Children and Youth; Father Joe Hilinski, Office of Eccumenical/Interfaith Ministry; and Joann Rymarczyk-Piotrkowski, Office of Newman Campus Ministry.
Among the diocesan staff members who assisted with the event were Bishop-elect Woost, Father Thomas Dragga, Lori Eppich, Martha Hamilton, Alicia Breeden, Dolores Bruno, Ana Esqualit, Debbie Morris, Martha Hamilton, Jason Lewis, Terri Pastura and Hortensia Rodriguez.
The Knights of Columbus sponsored the program.
A blessed candle was provided for each parish in the diocese to help launch the Eucharistic Revival in the diocese. Parishes were invited to place the candles in the church and to burn them as a way of helping to connect all 185 parishes for the revival.
“The synod team will continue to review all data from the 168 pages we received to discern ways we can support and continue to move forward as Church. We encourage all participants to use what you heard and learned and to put it into practice,” Saenz said. “There is no limit on listening,” she added, encouraging parishes and other ministries to continue that process.
Attendees also could view a display of historical artifacts from the diocesan archives. Among the items archivist Emily Ahlin brought were a copy of the papal document establishing the Diocese of Cleveland in 1847, a chalice and ring used by Bishop Amadeus Rappe, the first diocesan bishop, items relating to the diocesan mission in El Salvador and items from the National Eucharistic Congress hosted by the diocese in 1935.
A copy of the working document from the diocesan pre-synodal gathering can be viewed here. Saenz said it is not the final diocesan synthesis report but it is a working document outlining the process followed during the gathering. It includes the top 10 priorities and the most common themes that emerged during the consultation.
After the program ended, participants were invited to walk together to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist for the 4:30 p.m. Mass, which launched the diocesan Eucharistic Revival. Following Mass, there was a procession to St. Peter Church for XLT -- adoration, prayer and song. The evening ended with a cookout and social.
- More than 200 facilitators were trained between October 2021 and January 2022
- 118 parishes (64%) conducted at least one listening session between December 2021 and March 2022
- 168 reports were submitted
- 12,794 people participated in person
- 610 people responded to questions online
- All 10 college campus ministries participated
- A little more than 50% of the participants were age 30 or younger from parish schools of religion, Catholic schools, high schools and young adult groups