Known once for its automobile production, it is common knowledge that the City of Detroit has faced tough times. One only needs to Google “overgrown Detroit houses” to see the extent of material decay from a few years ago. While the jury is still out on the economic future of the Motor City, the opposite can be said of the spiritual future — Archdiocese of Detroit is a hot spot for the New Evangelization.
With a plenitude of apostolates — ranging from Renewal Ministries to St. Paul Street Evangelization — the faith outpouring from Detroit is serving as a beacon across North America. Archbishop Vigneron has overseen a dramatic refocusing of the archdiocese by moving away from decline and into mission. Arriving in 2009, he has faced the reality that Detroit had been closing parish after parish. He shared with his archdiocese that he did not want to be closing parishes and the archdiocese has since worked together towards financial stability. According to the Director for Campus and Young Adult Ministry, Christopher Gawel, “there are still some things to be done, but a lot of parishes are debt-free or working on it.”
While this material stability is good, the Archdiocese of Detroit does not view it as an end in itself and, instead, it is a means for the New Evangelization to flourish. Due to debt and financial instability, “a lot of parishes had not begun to embrace the New Evangelization,” said Christopher. “Now, they are in a position where they can.”
And embrace it they have. A recent Amazing Parish Conference in Detroit saw over 190 of the 224 archdiocesan parishes in attendance and the archdiocese is currently preparing for an even larger event — the upcoming Synod ’16 to take place this November.
The Synod will be composed of laity, religious, and clergy, and it will be focused on the themes of “encounter, grow, witness.” “Each parish selected a Synod delegate along with an alternate,” said Christopher. “And then Archbishop Vigneron appointed various groups of people (e.g. religious communities, young adults, leaders of apostolates).” This will allow for a diversity of views, experiences, and ideas to be discussed in November.
Preparing the delegates as well as the whole laity has been an important priority for the diocese. “We have been doing encounter experiences and formation in the parishes through three day missions called ‘Come Encounter Christ’,” said Christopher. “These three day missions describe the Archbishop’s themes for the Synod which are ‘encounter, grow, witness’. The mission answers ‘How do we encounter Jesus?’, ‘How do we grow in discipleship?’, and ‘How do we witness the Gospel?’”
Since much of the language to be used at the Synod is a bit foreign to many Catholics, it is really important to bring people on board with what it means to be a missionary disciple and to have an encounter with Jesus Christ. To this end, all the formation leading up to the Synod — be it for DRE’s, youth ministers, parish missions, conferences, etc. — is geared towards “getting [people] on the same page of this language of the New Evangelization here in the Archdiocese,” said Christopher.
This ongoing formation has moved the archdiocese onto the next step of preparation: parish dialogue sessions. In these sessions, Synod delegates listen to the parishes thoughts on “encounter, grow, witness” in town hall style meetings. The delegates then report the feedback to the Archdiocese which will be using to create the working documents of the Synod.
Working off these documents, the Synod will consist of discussion tables (guided by table facilitators) to dialogue about items from the same themes of “encounter, grow, witness.” At the conclusion of the Synod, Archbishop Vigneron will receive all the information from the tables, reflect upon it, and promulgate a plan for the Archdiocese by Pentecost 2017.
While all this visible fruit is very exciting, it is important to remember that the fundamental piece of the whole process has been prayer. More than a year ago, “Archbishop Vigneron promulgated a prayer that every parish is to pray,” said Chris. “A lot of parishes pray it at the end of their general intercessions during Mass.” Fr. Edwardo, the Director of Evangelization, then reached out to intercessors to come pray together for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. “What we didn’t realize,” said Christopher, “is that there were already thousands of people who had been praying [for evangelization in the Archdiocese]…When we first gathered, we thought it would be twenty to thirty people, but 150 showed up! The next time, we had a thousand! We didn’t realize just how much…the Lord had already prepared people for this.”
Please keep the Archdiocese of Detroit in your prayers as they continue in preparation for Synod ’16. To follow their efforts, look to us here at SPES as well as their archdiocesan evangelization newsletter.