Diocesan council shares ideas on structure and organization of Catholic Church

 “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.”  – Romans 12:4-5
WINFIELD – Dozens of representatives from parishes throughout the Diocese of Gary met with Bishop Robert J. McClory to participate in a Diocesan Pastoral Council listening session about the Synod on Synodality on March 14 at Holy Spirit.
Conversation questions addressed at each table of 4-8 participants included: “Where have I seen or experienced successes – and distresses – within the Church’s structure(s)/organization/leadership/life that encourage or hinder the mission?” and “How can the structures and organization of the Church help all the baptized to respond to the call to proclaim the Gospel and to live as a community of love and mercy in Christ?”
“What we do today is another offering of ourselves to God,” said Bishop McClory. “We live in a culture where everyone has opinions that can be clickbait.”
Referring to a scripture passage, Romans 12: 1-12, that was read aloud, the bishop advised the discussion participants: “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
He added from the end of the passage: “Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
With that exhortation, parish representatives began a lively exchange of ideas about their parish ministries, leadership and structure – both positive and challenging.
Comments ranged from “Collaboration between parishes is good, because one may have more resources (to share)” to “The shortage of priests hinders the mission,” with several groups struggling to come up with ways to encourage more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Addressing the second discussion question, participant comments varied from “We must make certain that we are always welcoming” to “Structure and communication has to be clear, (because) too much rigidity is off-putting.”
Once every person at their table had the chance to speak, emcee Matt Kresich, the diocese’s Synod on Synodality coordinator and director of young Catholics at Holy Name of Jesus in Cedar Lake encouraged them to share what resonated with them from among their tablemates’ contributions.
A scribe at each table took notes on the observations, particularly noting the “convergences and divergences.” With input from their tablemates, they also noted areas that need more discussion.
Kresich then called on each scribe to share “the fruits of their conversation,” and opinions ranged from the spiritual – “We should intentionally call on the Holy Spirit when we come together” and “We have to know how to talk to Jesus from the heart” to the more practical – “the Church is underutilizing women (more women came tonight); we do have a role in religious life” and “Why is it so difficult for divorced Catholics to remarry?”
One recurring theme in the comments was the participation of youth in the Catholic Church. “Catholic schools are important, because children are our future,” reported one scribe, while another repeated a suggestion that “Youth Masses should be held on a regular basis because they bring kids back to church serving as ushers, greeters and readers.”
Concerning distresses facing the Church, representatives mentioned “Too many levels in the diocese” and a “lack of communication between groups in a parish.” Priest abuse cases and the way the hierarchy condoned them harmed the Church overall”, it was stated, while “People who divorce sometimes feel uncomfortable at church.”
One scribe said the consensus at her table was that “We all need to work together with the diocese to strengthen the Church and not complain about each other.”
Bishop McClory praised the council’s work in his closing remarks. “I was impressed by the organic – the priesthood of all the baptized – and the institutional side, how we organize and function,” he said.
“The best formation I received was in my family. We lived the faith in the world in which I was raised,” he added. “Faith starts in the home.”
The bishop explained that he recently held a listening session on the Synod with young adults and was struck by how “the fracturing of social media is overwhelming, leading to isolation and loneliness.”
Bishop McClory thanked the council members for their input. “God has blessed you and you came with authenticity,” he said.
Kresich also provided a timeline for the Synod, which was announced by Pope Francis in March 2020 and discussed in a diocesan session in October 2021, leading to Bishop McClory’s February 2022 Pastoral Letter on Missionary Discipleship. Synod on Synodality leaders met in Rome last October and released a 40-page document addressing a number of topics now under discussion during an interim phase that will lead to another session in Rome in October of this year.


Caption: Betty Ring (center) of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in New Chicago discusses the successes and distresses she has experienced in Catholic Church "structure/organization/leadership/life" with tablemates Judy Harrington of St. Paul in Valparaiso (left) and Dorie Little, also of Assumption of the BVM, during a meeting of the Diocesan Pastoral Council on March 14 at Holy Spirit in Winfeld. The meeting was formatted to address Pope Francis' Synod on Synodality. (Marlene A. Zloza photo)