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 | By The Most Reverend Robert D. Gruss

From the Bishop

The words of Pope Francis set the stage for the Synod 2023 – For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission. The purpose of the Synod is not to produce documents, but “to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm heart, give strength to hands.” When one looks at the input gathered from the listening sessions throughout the Diocese of Saginaw, I believe that our data expresses these dreams, this vision, this hope.

Looking back at the pre-synodal document, recall the purpose of this process. “Synodality enables the entire People of God to walk forward together, listening to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, to participate in the mission of the Church in the communion that Christ establishes between us. Walking together is the most effective way of manifesting and putting into practice the true nature of the Church as the pilgrim and missionary People of God.”

Having just recently completed the synodal process for the Diocese of Saginaw, I want to thank the people across the Diocese who took the time to participate in this endeavor. Many participants initially were apprehensive or expressed skepticism on the process, wondering if it would be worthwhile and bear any fruit, but everyone felt heard. The post-synodal feedback from the parish facilitators revealed gratitude for being able to participate, appreciation for the process and most voiced a desire to continue participating in regular local level listening sessions even after the synod is complete. Those who participated found it so valuable, they wished more people would have joined the listening sessions.

I invite you to read about the key findings from the Diocesan Synod Report are shared in a special report on page XX. 

One parish report offered this vision for our diocese: Churches full of families and people of all ages coming together to fully participate in unity as Catholics…Mass would be full of engaging music, a vibrant pastor, and welcoming to all who walk into our worship space…There would be overflowing vocations with parishes full of priests, nuns, commissioned lay ministers and laity… Our parish grounds and buildings would be up to date, handicap accessible and to have buildings outfitted to fit all the needs of parishioners and various ministries. This vision describes beautifully the outcome the Holy Father had hoped for when setting the synodal process in motion.

I also invite you to take the time to read the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw Synod Summary Report found on the diocesan website. In doing so, you will find there is a great desire to give witness to who we are:  One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In the Summary Report, the common themes have been categorized to give witness to these four characteristics or “marks” of the Church.

The content of the many reports submitted from across the diocese was very inspirational. The honest input captured highs and lows, joys and wounds, conflicts and agreements, while highlighting what is being done well and opportunities for improvement. There will be follow-up with parishes on issues specific to their individual parishes will happen in the future, common issues across the diocese are highlighted in this report.

I do believe the data provided from the listening sessions can become a wonderful springboard to a future priority planning process for the Diocese of Saginaw. 

I would like to highlight two areas uncovered in the synod here. One is in the area of Formation. Uncovered was a significant desire and need among Catholics to learn more about the Faith. A strong desire for adult faith formation was expressed. There was an expressed need to better understand the basic tenants of the Catholic Faith, including Mass, the sacraments and Church history. Wrote one vicariate: There was an especially strong theme of wanting to understand the Mass and Eucharist better. It is my hope that the three-year Eucharistic Revival which we began on June 19 will be the catalyst for eucharistic formation. This can begin by reading the recent document on the Eucharist from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.

Another area uncovered was in regard to Deepening of Faith. Many participants expressed a love of their parish and their faith. They are looking for more reverence, more encounters with Jesus and more evangelization. This Eucharistic Revival encourages parishes to increase opportunities or to begin opportunities for Eucharistic adoration as a means for these deeper encounters with Jesus. I have begun Eucharistic adoration opportunities twice a month in the form of Holy Hours for Vocations in parishes across the Diocese. 

The focus for these Holy Hours is for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life within our Diocese, while at the same time deepening our own love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. When it comes to your parish, I encourage you to join me there in praying for vocations for our diocese. Or making a pilgrimage to other parishes for these Holy Hours would be a wonderful sacrificial gesture, allowing the Lord Jesus to deepen his life in you. 

Much is to be done in addressing the feedback outlined in the Synod Report. The two initiatives mentioned above are starting points, as well as our Catholic school initiative. But with the important information and insights gathered throughout the synod, the Diocese of Saginaw is better positioned to identify and serve the needs of the faithful. 

Therefore, this synodal process is not over for us. We must continue to listen to one another, to journey together with each other and discern together the Spirit’s direction for us. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon this Diocese anew so the mission of Jesus Christ may be more fully realized in our midst.