More than 200 people gathered May 28 for the opening session of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ ninth General Synod. The first synod, held at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Slidell, is one of 17 consultation sessions with Synod leaders that will be held throughout the greater New Orleans area.

Those attending represented every parish in the East St. Tammany Deanery, and many expressed their group’s appreciation for the opportunity to have their voices heard.

“I really loved it,” St. Margaret Mary parishioner Richard Tonry said. “It made me feel like a part of the changes the church wants to make in the future.”

Archbishop Gregory Aymond opened the synod and said he will attend all of the sessions to listen to what the people have to say.

“A synod,” Aymond explained, “is a gathering of the people of God to pray and dialogue, asking God: ‘What is your vision and dream and priorities for this local church?’”

Aymond called the synod to help discern the vision and priorities for the archdiocese for the next several years.

“This is God’s dream,” he emphasized, explaining that a leadership team and Paul Breaux, of the Catholic Leadership Institute, will facilitate all of the listening sessions, collecting all participants’ answers to three questions.

After all sessions, the leadership group will look at all of the information and discern where God is leading the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

“After the 17 sessions,” Aymond said, the leadership team “will come up with three priorities to focus on over the next several years.”

These priorities will have measurable goals and objectives to further the mission of the church.

The three questions the people considered were:

  • What are we doing well in the Archdiocese of New Orleans that helps you grow in your faith and relationship with the Lord?
  • When you think about the archdiocese and the ministries that we provide, what are two areas of focus that we can do better that you would recommend for the next few years?
  • Concerning your dreams and aspirations, what might God be calling us to as the local church during the next two to three years?

The large crowd — a turnout that the archbishop called a very pleasant surprise, considering the day’s torrential rain — reflected upon each question individually, then discussed in small groups.

To conclude the evening, which started with prayer, a member of each group reported on the highlights of their discussions.

“This has been insightful and helpful,” Archbishop Aymond said at the conclusion of the session. “I deeply appreciate” all who took the time to attend. “This information will be listened to, prayed with and pondered. Each of you will have a voice.”

A consultation session will be held in every deanery of the archdiocese. In addition, there will be sessions for youth, clergy and religious, and the elderly.

For a complete list and other information on the synod, visit synod.arch-no.org.

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