Synod '16

How can communities of faith – families, parishes, schools, Catholic apostolates, and Archdiocese of Detroit’s Central Services – unleash the Gospel in Detroit and southeast Michigan, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ?

To discern the answer, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron convened a synod in fall 2016. Representatives from throughout the archdiocese met over three days to pray, discuss and discern what the Holy Spirit was saying. Synod members focused on themes and propositions relating to how to reorient the Archdiocese of Detroit from maintenance to mission. How can we become the band of joyful missionary disciples that God wants us to be?

The work of Synod 16 was the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a movement. We are merely His instruments at work refashioning the Church to win back the world for Christ. Synod 16 was not an endpoint. Rather, it was a grace-filled moment in our Church and a milestone along the road toward becoming an evangelizing diocese filled with Catholics conformed to Christ.

Frequently Asked Questions

When and where was Synod 16 held?

Synod 16 was held November 18-20, 2016 at the Westin Book Cadillac in downtown Detroit. Opening Mass was held nearby at St. Aloysius Parish.

What is a diocesan synod?

A Synod is both an event and a process where clergy, religious and the laity gather to discuss important matters of the faith. Synods are transformative events that lead to renewal in the Church's life. After a Synod occurs, the Church emerges different and is changed.

Who were the members of Synod 16?

Canon 463,certain individuals are to be called to a diocesan synod as members and are obliged to participate in the synod. To fulfill these obligations, Archbishop Vigneron extended invitations to be a member of Synod 16 to:

  • Auxiliary bishops, vicars general, episcopal vicars, judicial vicar, Presbyterial (priest) Council members, rectors of Sacred Heart Major Seminary and SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, and the 16 vicars.
  • Lay members from parishes throughout the archdiocese.
  • One priest from each of the 16 vicariates, elected by their brother priests.
  • Superiors from religious institutes and societies of apostolic life who have a house in the archdiocese and have actively participated in the annual dialogue with Archbishop Vigneron. The Superior or his/her delegate could accept the invitation to be a member of Synod 16
  • The 16 vicariate representative members of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.
  • Members of the Lay Ecclesial Minister (LEM) Committee from each of the four regions of the archdiocese.
  • Three permanent deacons from each of the four regions of the archdiocese were elected by their brother deacons for a total of 12
  • People involved with Catholic schools, youth and young adult ministries, various lay movements, special communities and distinct ministries.

Specific people were invited to serve as expert advisors and facilitators; these were non-voting attendees serving a passive role at Synod 16.

What happened in the lead-up to the Synod? 

Before Synod 16, there was a Year of Prayer for a New Pentecost, asking God “to increase the reign of the Divine Savior, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace.”

To prepare the faithful of the archdiocese, a series of 30 Come, Encounter Christ! parish missions were held at parishes throughout southeast Michigan. These outpourings of prayer and evangelization helped prepare the faithful for Synod 16.

In spring 2016, parishes throughout the archdiocese held parish dialogue gatherings to talk about evangelization in the archdiocese and to help inform the propositions to be taken up for discussion at Synod 16. This afforded the Catholic faithful an opportunity to participate in and inform the outcomes of Synod 16.

What is evangelization? Why is it important? 

Evangelization is bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to those around us. Jesus himself commanded us to evangelize. The Church exists to give witness to the Gospel. All around us are people who have never heard that God loves them and desires abundant life for them. They need to hear this good news. There are also people who received sacraments or grew up in faithful homes who have now stopped coming to church or stopped participating in their faith. Evangelization is for them, too.

Have there been other diocesan synods in the Archdiocese of Detroit? 

Yes. The most recent synod prior to Synod 16 was Synod 69 called by Cardinal Dearden and held at Cobo Center in 1969. In total there have been 10 synods since the formation of the diocese of Detroit in 1833.

What are the fruits of Synod 16? 

Following the conclusion of Synod 16, the propositions that were voted on at the Synod were distilled by a team appointed by the Archbishop. Archbishop Vigneron then began to pray and review what he heard at the synod, along with artifacts and records from the synod, in order to write his post-synodal pastoral letter, titled Unleash the Gospel.

Contained within Unleash the Gospel is a series of action steps that, when enacted, will move the Archdiocese of Detroit from maintenance toward becoming a band of joyful missionary disciples. This is the Holy Spirit’s movement in the Church of Detroit.

Why is Synod 16 important?

There is a need to elevate the presence and importance of Christ in individuals, families, parishes, schools and Catholic institutions to receive the good news, to live it, and to share it with our friends, our families, in our workplaces and beyond.

The natural state of the Church is one of growth. We are living in a time of unnatural deterioration of the Church. The decline in sacramental participation and vocations as well as the closing of parishes are unnatural aberrations rooted in an erosion of evangelization. We need to undo some of what we've become as a people of Christ—passive in prioritizing and living our faith, sad about the perceived decline of the importance of Jesus and Church institutions, and accustomed to a malaise rooted in believing there is little that can be done.

Just as we are seeing revitalization in our city, we seek to bring about rebirth of the Church in Detroit.

Why was the scope of Synod 16 limited to evangelization?

Blessed Paul VI called evangelization “the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection.” Evangelizing, spreading the Good News, proclaiming the Kerygma… are central to all that the Church does.

Will there be another synod? 

It is likely that Archbishop Vigneron or one of his successors may call another archdiocesan synod at some point in the future. However, currently, there are no plans to convene another synod.

How can I learn more?

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Posted: October 2018