Delegates from all 98 parishes are meeting to develop ways to strengthen families, the heart of Christian life.
In his document “Joy of Love,” Pope Francis invited dioceses around the world to reflect on the state of families in their region and to find ways to strengthen them in today’s complicated times.
After consultations with the priestly leadership, deacons and lay leaders, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy announced in May that the diocese would hold a general assembly Oct. 29 and 30 to identify ways to reinforce marriage and families.
Such an assembly, called a diocesan synod, is rare. The last one held at the San Diego Diocese was in 1972 to 1976. What’s more, the local diocese is the only one in the country that is known to be taking this approach in response to the Pope’s calling.
Most of the delegates to the assembly are parishioners who will be able to provide direct witness to the realities of family life. They are having “listening sessions” with fellow parishioners to hear their ideas. The delegates, in turn, are organized into five Challenge Working Groups, each focused on a topic.
On Aug. 20, the first of these groups met at the Pastoral Center. Their topic was to explore the challenges marriages face today and to propose ways the diocese can support them.
The day began with enthronement of the Book of the Gospels. Bernadeane Carr, STL, director of the Diocesan Institute, served as the theologian for the day. She reflected on Psalm 128:1-6, along with quotes from Pope Francis.
Fr. John Hurley, CSP, the synod’s coordinator, led the day, along with Deacon Ralph and Peggy Skiano from the Diocesan Marriage and Family Life Office. They encouraged the delegates to think “outside the box” to develop proposals that were relevant, achievable and measurable.
Bishop McElroy joined the group before lunch and at the end of the day.
“Marriage is foundational and must be transformational. As culture changes, we must adapt so that the beauty of marriage can be transformational in the context of our culture,” he told the group.
He urged the delegates to embrace the cultural diversity of parishioners as they developed their proposals.
The 130 delegates are divided among five Saturdays (through Oct. 1) to answer the Bishop’s five challenges. The remaining ones are to bring spiritual depth to family life; to nurture and form children, to serve divorced Catholics and to invite unmarried couples to the Church. The proposed goals from the Saturdays will be shared at the Diocesan Synod General Assembly on Oct. 29 and 30.
At the synod, the 130 delegates will reflect on the goals submitted by the five working groups and whittle them down to five goals that will be submitted to Bishop McElroy. Afterward, a committee will be formed to implement them.
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Please continue to pray that the Holy Spirit and the Holy Family may guide all of these extraordinary deliberations.
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