‘We need to cast a net as far as possible.’
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Diocese of Brooklyn opened its synod on Saturday with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio amid promises that the diocese will listen to all Catholics’ feedback, including those who are not active participants in church life.
“We need to cast a net as far as possible,” Bishop DiMarzio said.
Father Joseph Gibino, vicar for evangelization and catechesis for the diocese, said synod organizers want to hear from “the people who use our food pantries and come to Catholic Charities” as well as “the poor, those living on the fringes.”
Bishop DiMarzio named Father Gibino and Sister Maryann Seton Lopiccolo S.C., episcopal delegate for religious, the co-directors of the synod.
Saturday’s Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Prospect Heights, served as the kickoff for the local synod and set in motion a process that will build toward the Synod on Synodality called by Pope Francis in October 2023. That’s when all of the world’s bishops will gather in one place to discuss the Church’s future.
The formal title of the 2023 synod is: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”
Synodality comes from two Greek words meaning “common road.” The 2023 gathering will focus on the process of a synod itself.
At the diocesan level, a series of meetings called “listening sessions” will occur — first at the parish level and then at the diocese’s 22 deaneries — from now until April.
Bishop-designate Robert Brennan, who will be installed Bishop of Brooklyn on Nov. 30, will be taking over for Bishop DiMarzio and guiding the diocesan synod from that point on. He told organizers he wanted to attend the sessions held by the deaneries.
On the day he was announced as the eighth Bishop of Brooklyn, Bishop Brennan talked about how much he was looking forward to the synod.
“My tenure here will begin by listening to the people of Brooklyn and Queens — by hearing your hopes and dreams and your experience in living the gospel,” he said. “To be honest with you, I’m kind of excited about that.”
Henry Macchiaroli, a trustee of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Ridgewood, who attended the Mass with his wife Mary, said he hopes communication is one of the topics brought up at the listening sessions.
“I think communication is very important,” he said. “And to come forward and be servants. One of our focuses is young adult leaders and fostering in them a willingness to be of service to the Church and the community.”
Sister Maryann said the diocese is prepared for the possibility of negative feedback from everyday Catholics.
“That kind of information is helpful because it can be constructive. We can find out what didn’t work,” she said. “Why are you not happy? Why are you not coming to church? How can we improve? What can we do to be a better, more welcoming community worldwide?”
“When I read more and more about what Pope Francis is saying, he really wants this to be a refreshing of the Church,” Sister Maryann added.
However, Bishop DiMarzio cautioned against negativity.
“It’s not supposed to be a complaint session,” he said. “It’s supposed to be looking at the mission of the church, how can we better accomplish it, what do we need to do, what changes we might have to make, to really get into the new evangelization.”
Pope Francis established a two-year synod process that will begin with a diocesan phase (October 2021 to April 2022) and move to a continental phase (September 2022 to March 2023) before ending with the synod in October 2023.
According to Father Gibino, the local synod needs to start on a positive note: “Our prayer is that the tone will really be one of enthusiasm, that it will be exciting, because this is an opportunity for all of us to pray together first and then to discern with each other God’s will for our Church.”