Bishops gather at Vatican to review stance on marriage and divorce _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Archbishop Gregory Aymond addresses the audience before blessing new roadways built by St. Tammany Parish on land owned by the archdiocese Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, on Judge Tanner Extension north of Mandeville. The road leads to a new archdiocese development that will include the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church and St. Anthony's Gardens, a complex of independent and assisted living apartments and a nursing home.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans is deep into an unusual self-examination process in which it has asked thousands of Catholics what it’s doing well and where it’s missing the boat.

It hopes to digest the findings and in late May announce three to five priorities for improvement, each one measurable and with a specific starting date, Archbishop Gregory Aymond said.

The church gathered public opinion from rank-and-file Catholics in 17 town hall meetings over the summer that attracted more than 3,800 participants around metro New Orleans, Aymond said.

Such local efforts, called consultative synods, are relatively rare. The last one in New Orleans was in the mid-1980s, and this is the ninth one in the nearly 300-year history of the archdiocese, he said.

Aymond said he felt a synod was the best method to assess the status of the church’s work in New Orleans.

“We wanted to know: How can the local church become more alive? How can we fulfill the mission of Christ?” Aymond said. “How do we invite those already in the church to a more intimate relationship, and to those outside, how do we get them back?”

Participants at the public meetings were asked to prepare answers to three questions: What is the local church doing well? What can it do better? And what three priorities should it set for the next 18 to 36 months?

After the meetings ended in late September, teams of local analysts sorted the priorities by theme — social justice, education, worship and others — and identified the most-cited priorities across all fields.

Aymond is scheduled to announce the findings on Pentecost Sunday, May 24.