Evangelizing people of all ages, building vibrant parishes and communicating the Church’s message better were topics of discussion at the Sept. 8 Diocesan Synod preparatory meeting at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington.
Also discussed were the ongoing scandal of clergy sexual abuse and allegations of abuse at the former St. Joseph Orphanage in Burlington.
About 80 people attended the meeting — parish representatives, lay members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, deacons, priests from throughout the state and some diocesan staff and volunteers.
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne spoke about the issues, reading a draft of the statement about the orphanage allegations that he made public the next day, and he asked the delegates to discuss the Church’s response. Delegates then had an opportunity to share their responses and recommendations.
“The delegates’ input will be used in formulating the agenda for the synod sessions, including the questions the bishop will ask the delegates on the three synod themes [evangelizing people of all ages, building vibrant parishes and communicating the Church’s message better] and proposed recommendations for those topics that the delegates will discuss and vote on,” said Father Brian O’Donnell, executive secretary for the synod.
The first synod session will take place on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, beginning with Mass at 9 a.m. This session will focus on evangelizing people of all ages. The second session will take place on Saturday, Oct. 27, at a central/southern Vermont location to be announced and will focus on building vibrant parishes. The third session, on Saturday, Nov. 10, in Burlington will focus on communicating our message better.
Bishop Coyne, who called the synod, after consultation with the Synod Preparatory Commission, asked all the parishes in Vermont to have listening sessions. Parishioners were invited to offer responses to three questions:
As the Catholic Church in Vermont what are we doing well?
What are we doing that we should be doing better?
What are we not doing that we should be doing?
The synod delegates met for the first time in February.
Bishop Coyne announced plans to convene the synod to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Catholic Church in Vermont and to establish particular laws and policies to do so.
The Sept. 8 meeting was the final preparatory meeting before the synod begins in October.