GREEN BAY — The Diocese of Green Bay has started on a pathway which the entire Catholic Church will follow from now through 2023. On Oct. 17, Bishop David Ricken officially opened the diocesan phase of a “process of consultation” that will lead to the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October of 2023. Pope Francis opened the synodal process at the Vatican Oct. 9-10, launching the listening process in dioceses worldwide Oct. 17.
The pope’s call to synodality — listening to all the voices in the church, and even outside the church — is also, as the pope said, a call to walk “a pathway.” The word “synod” comes from two Greek words, “sun” meaning “together”’ and “hodos” for “way,” with both words united to mean being together on the journey.
In this diocese,” Bishop Ricken said in his homily on Oct 17 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, “we have been, in a very extensive way, already on the synodal pathway.” He further described the synod and the preparation leading up to it as a way “to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in light of the needs of the times.”
There are three themes in this process, Bishop Ricken explained at the opening Mass,, based on the theme for the Synod of Bishops: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission. These themes are:
- Communion, which is defined, the bishop said, as “the love and unity of the Holy Trinity,” Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “Together we are called to listen more carefully to the Word of God and to listen to the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Ricken said. “That is communion.”
- Fuller participation involves “the people of God engaged in deep and respectful listening to one another,.” the bishop explained. Listening and the promptings of the Holy Spirit“takes careful discernment,” he added.
- Mission means a greater openness in fulfilling our call to evangelization. “The church exists in order to evangelize. We are not here for ourselves; we’re not here just to keep our institutions going,” Bishop Ricken stressed. “… We are here to submit ourselves to the mission of the church, which is to evangelize others… To invite others to enter the beauty that we enjoy in the Catholic way of life.”
Bishop Ricken expressed happiness that the Diocese of Green Bay has already, in many ways, been on this listening and discerning pathway since 2011, when he released his pastoral letter: “Green Bay Parishes: Called to be Holy, Fully Engaged, Fully Alive.” In this pastoral, he stressed the important central role of the parish as “the heart of our faith.”
The pastoral letter was the result of diocesan-wide parish and school visits the bishop undertook in the years following his arrival in the diocese in 2008, as well as input from parish and institution visits as well as 30 focus groups. In 2014, he instituted the “pastoral map” known as “Disciples on the Way,” which is still ongoing. The bishop described these years of discernment as “listening to the voices of the people in the pews.”
That process of discernment, Bishop Ricken said, brought forth the realization of evangelization as “the number one and first priority of the diocese.” The pastoral map, over the years, he said, has been “guiding us ever deeper into an embracing of discipleship and now missionary discipleship reaching out to save souls for the Kingdom of God.”
In 2018, the process led to regional listening sessions and focus groups. These included both Catholics and non-Catholics.
In moving forward, Bishop Ricken expressed confidence that “the Holy Spirit will lead us in these endeavors and teach us to be more flexible, more mobile, more outward looking, more invitational, to the poor, those who have fallen away, those we don’t often listen to.”
The bishop also stated his trust that “the ongoing path will lead to growth and change as we continue to listen.”
This information was also shared at an Oct. 21 Discipleship Seminar, held at the Resch Expo in Ashwaubenon for almost 800 parish, school and apostolate leaders. Attending both virtually and in person at the Resch Expo, they learned that results of listening sessions to be held in the next few months, as well as this current information, will be compiled by Bishop Ricken, with the assistance of the diocesan chancellor, Tammy Basten. The resulting 10-page report will join reports from dioceses around the country that must be submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by March 2022.
To continue the process, as well as the synod preparations, and do this all well, Bishop Ricken said, “We must be more engaged, more dynamic, which means we must become holy.”
At the seminar, participants learned about the synod, its theme and about the results of the diocesan Welcome Back to Mass efforts in September as well as social media efforts to reach out to young adults. They also met the new diocesan missionary discipleship director, Stacy Humbert.
Walking this pathway of the synod will require faith and prayer, along with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, “I have no doubt the Holy Spirit will lead us in these endeavors,” Bishop Ricken said.
To listen to and view Bishop Ricken’s entire Oct. 17, 2021, homily, visit the homepage on gbdioc.org.