Bishop listens to Stamford area Catholics

May 2014


By Brian D. Wallace

Welcoming back Catholics who have left the Church, inspiring the young to grow in the faith, and pooling resources between parishes to improve religious education for adults and children were among the major concerns at the first listening session of Synod 2014, held at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford.

In a little over 90 minutes, the more than 200 laity, priests and religious men and women who came out for the first session made 98 comments about the life of faith in Fairfield County.

Taking their turns to speak, Catholics from the Stamford area shared their thoughts with Bishop Caggiano and Synod Commission members on the strengths of current diocesan ministries, the opportunity for new outreach, and the need to improve existing ministries and practices.

The listening session was moderated by Msgr. Dariusz Zielonka, synod director, who moved the evening along in a brisk and cordial way to enable as many speakers as possible to make comments. Volunteers walked through the audience to give a-hand-held microphone to the speakers. All of the comments were also recorded to incorporate them into topics for the synod.

Most speakers took the opportunity to praise their pastors and priests, to offer strong support for Catholic education, and to express their gratitude that the sacraments are readily available to Catholics across the diocese on a daily basis. They were also proud of the Church’s outreach to hospitals, prisons and the poor who are served in diocesan soup kitchens.

Speakers asked for improved catechesis for adults, more Bible Study groups, and the use of contemporary Christian music to engage young people. They also said that parishes should upgrade the level of their communications by improving website and using new social media to reach out to young people and families.

While speakers praised their parishes, they said they would like to see them become more welcoming to young people. They would also like more sharing and fewer boundaries between parishes and their programs. One woman suggested that suburban parishes should “twin” with inner city parishes so that both could learn more from each other and share their lives and faith.

Some who took the microphone said the Church was not doing a good job of capturing the idealism and energy of youth, which is often seen in their commitment to social change. Others seemed baffled that their own children or family members stopped attending Mass, and they wanted to see them back in the Church.

The range of comments also pointed out some of the challenges ahead as the synod seeks to renew the life of faith in the diocese.

One woman who said she did extensive traveling and attended Masses in many different dioceses said she would like to see at least two “general absolution” services a year similar to those held in the dioceses she had visited. Later on in the evening, a man who had converted to Catholicism at the age of 53 said that one of the great gifts of the Church was “one-on-one confession” and that he was not interested in general absolution.

When one speaker said that she would like to see the diocese much more active in interfaith gatherings, another said he would like to see the diocese much more active in winning back Catholics who have left the faith.

A man who described himself as having been a lifeless Catholic in terms of his faith said there was a need to “give more personal witness” and that the Church could learn something from the “12-steps program” in which people share their own stories. “There’s no place to go when you’re on fire in the Catholic Church. We need to know what it means to be alive in Christ,” he said.

One man noted that his seven-year-old daughter looked up at the altar of her church surrounded by men and altar boys and asked, “Where are the girls?” He said that “We need to find a way for women to have more obvious role in parishes.”

Msgr. Zielonka said that the input from all listening sessions and the online forms will be processed by the Synod Commission to place all comments into proper categories, i.e., “liturgy,” “youth” or “administration.” Then study committees will examine these comments and present them to the General Delegates who will discuss them at the synod’s General Sessions

(Those who cannot attend a listening session but would like to make a comment are invited to go www.2014synod.org/formg. For more information on upcoming listening sessions throughout the diocese, visit the Synod 2014 website at www.synod2014.org.)