In November 2016, thousands of people - clergy, laity and religious - from across the Archdiocese of Detroit gathered to discuss and discern the future of the Archdiocese and decide on the steps we need to take to turn us into a diocese of joyful missionary disciples.
The goal of Synod 16 was to make us into missionaries and to change the DNA of our archdiocese. To achieve these goals, the focus was on evangelization and moving from a maintenance-focused Church to a mission-focused Church.
Synod 16 was a catalyst for the movement and Archbishop’s letter, Unleash the Gospel. In this letter, Archbishop calls for change and implemented Guideposts to move us forward. It is the roadmap for the future of the Archdiocese.
Learn about the movement or read Archbishop’s letter at unleashthegospel.org
Timeline of the Unleash the Gospel Movement
On Ash Wednesday 2014, Archbishop Allen Vigneron invited every person and parish to embark on a year of prayer for a new Pentecost in the Archdiocese of Detroit — a year of “practical preparation for mission.”
From parish closures to rapidly declining Mass attendance, we recognized that something drastic must be done to sustain and grow the witness and vitality of our Catholic faith in southeast Michigan. Yes, as a people, we acknowledged that we couldn’t do this on our own.
We needed a fresh infusion of God’s grace, and we collectively declared that enough was enough. We prayed for God’s help and intervention, together.
Each experience consisted of three consecutive evenings with different themes and dynamic preachers each night — all focused on the true Eucharistic presence of Jesus and how to begin a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior.
The process of “dialogue” is powerful because it intentionally affirms the gifts of the people who participate.
Through a time of prayer and focused discussion around the themes of encountering God, growth as disciples, and witnessing as evangelists, we gathered and listened to mothers, fathers, children, and clergy from every corner of the Archdiocese. They spoke with great love for Christ, with great hope for the possibilities, and with truly passionate ideas to forge forward as a Church.
With over 11,000 unique points of feedback we synthesized the comments to create what would become the themes, discussions, and proposals of Synod 16.
Asking and receiving God’s forgiveness enables us to move forward with new hope and courage.
Following the example of St. Pope John Paul lI, who celebrated a Mass for repentance during the Jubilee 2000, Archbishop Vigneron and his auxiliary bishops celebrated a Mass for Pardon on Oct. 7, 2016, on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The Mass for Pardon is a penitential act, asking for God’s forgiveness for the sins of the Catholic community as a whole, over the generations. Such sins include institutional racism, clergy sex abuse, and neglect toward helping the poor and spreading the Gospel.
The synod was much more than a gathering of people — it was a visible flame of hope for our Archdiocese.
From the many clergy, lay people, subject matter experts, came forth a deep and unified voice: in order for the Church to fulfill her mission in the world something must change. A new way of doing things must be encouraged, and more than a program, this new foundation needed to touch every person and institution of our local Church.
The synod was a confirmation of the great hope and conviction of the people. In his opening Mass homily, Archbishop Vigneron said: “We come here to the synod with a great and sure conviction that God will not disappoint us. It may not be the answer we looked for, but God will hear the prayer that we have made together that the Holy Spirit fill our hearts and lead us.”
After two full days of discussion and prayer we began to outline a plan forward.
On Pentecost Sunday, June 3, 2017, Archbishop Allen Vigneron released his pastoral letter: Unleash the Gospel, the fruit of Synod 16, reflecting what the Holy Spirit said through Synod participants. From this response a movement is born.
The saints inspire us to go beyond our comfort zones to bring the Gospel to the world. On November 18, 2017, the first anniversary of Synod 16, more than 70,000 faithful and pilgrims from around the world filled Ford Field to participate in the beatification and Mass for Capuchin priest Father Solanus Casey.
Archbishop Vigneron has put our entire evangelization and missionary strategic planning efforts under the patronage of one of Detroit’s greatest evangelists, a humble priest of hospitality and healing. And like Blessed Solanus, we thank God ahead of time for how he will abundantly bless and guide our work.
“As we embark on the missionary transformation of our local Church, a particular companion and intercessor for us is Venerable Father Solanus Casey. I see the recent announcement that he will be beatified in the months ahead as an incomparable grace for us: a model for the work of evangelization and a providential sign from God that we are doing his will. In his years of humble service as doorkeeper to St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, Father Solanus met everyone who came to him — Catholic or non-Catholic — with the warmth and compassion of Christ …. May we follow his example!” – Archbishop Vigneron
More than 500 volunteer Missionaries were sent to every parish in the Archdiocese to speak at every Mass the weekend of Nov. 3-4 to encourage parishioners to take up the mission of renewal by participating in an innovative six-day challenge. The faithful were encouraged to sign up via text or email to receive six short videos explaining the foundations of the Unleash the Gospelpastoral letter and what it means to them. More than 70,000 people have accepted this challenge. Visitutgchallenge.comand join us!
Detroit Catholic, a digital news service, launched with the goal to broaden the Archdiocese’s storytelling reach and to chronicle the people, parishes and communities working to unleash the Gospel in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Thousands of people have subscribed to receive daily, weekly or monthly award-winning coverage. Visit detroitcatholic.com to subscribe.
We invited parish leaders and pastors from across the Archdiocese to learn about hospitality, discipleship, and evangelization best practices for their parishes and communities. 120 parishes attended and nearly 2,000 parish leaders were trained.
A bold new vision for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit was released in January 2019 – a watershed moment for the re-foundation of our schools. As confirmed at Synod 16, Catholic students and schools are everyone’s responsibility. Schools are centers of evangelization for students, families and faculty and play an integral role in our mission to Unleash the Gospel. Our schools foster holiness and equip children for their vocations and for life: to become disciples and saints.
Through prayer and work, the new vision serves as a roadmap for the strategic transformation of our schools to all become proudly Catholic, academically excellent, accessible to all and sustainable for the future.
Unleash the Gospel is a movement powered by the Holy Spirit. It’s the missionary transformation of the Archdiocese of Detroit. It’s not something we do individually but a communal task, a work of the whole mystical body of Christ to which we belong.
Our goal is not to be good and make it to heaven. Our goal is to extend the kingdom of God on earth by making the world a place where Christ is known and loved, so that as many people as possible are brought with us to eternal life. This is our mission.
The Archdiocese published 52 Sundays, a dynamic guide to help families reclaim the Lord's Day with prayer, activities, food, and more! It offers simple and insightful ways for families to spend time together each Sunday learning more about the Catholic faith and having fun.
Synod 16 called for a complete renewal of structures of our parishes to make them radically-mission oriented. The increasing shortage of priests and the health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic accelerated this process of renewal.
On Pentecost Sunday, Archbishop Vigneron announced that over the next two years, all parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit will join other parishes in new groupings called “families of parishes.” These groups of three to six parishes will share resources to advance the mission. Each family of parishes will be served by multiple priests and deacons.
The Archdiocese of Detroit announced its participation in the local, regional, and national levels in the Synod on Synodality, guided by preparatory documents sent out by the Holy See for dioceses, like ours, that are currently or have recently hosted local synods.
Our contribution to the global synod will detail the many fruits of our ongoing synodal process, from the Year of Prayer in 2014 to Synod 16 in 2016 and our ongoing move toward Families of Parishes. Some additional consultations will be done with canonical consultative bodies, including the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Presbyteral Council, and the Curia Directors' Council. We’ll also look at what the future holds for the Archdiocese as we continue to strengthen our synodal identity, particularly through our transition to Families of Parishes.