Synod Matters: Improving parish hospitality, equipping disciples to fulfill Church’s mission

April 23, 2024

Participants from Prince of Peace Catholic Church and Corpus Christi Catholic Church gathered during Lent to discuss how the Church’s structures support or hinder the Church in fulfilling its mission. (Photo courtesy of the Pastoral and Educational Ministries)

HOUSTON — At Prince of Peace Catholic Church and Corpus Christi Catholic Church, participants met during Lent to discuss how the Church’s structures support or hinder the faithful’s embrace of the mission to bring people closer to God.

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo’s request to conduct the next wave of synodal sessions in English and Spanish responds to Pope Francis’ call for profound dialogue and discernment in preparation for the upcoming Vatican Synod of Bishops in October.

A significant takeaway identifies transformative retreats, charismatic ministries and small faith-sharing groups as pivotal in promoting the Church’s mission.

Participants also emphasized the value of community and service ministries, the transformative power of Liturgy and Sacraments, and the importance of personal devotions and spiritual growth toward Christ by the faithful. From these discussions, a resounding theme emerged: the collective effort in communion of the entire Church — including clergy, staff, lay ministers and parishioners — is imperative for realizing this mission.

The need for more positive interactions with parish staff and the active formation and training of lay ministers were identified as key areas for improvement. These concerns underscored frustrations with perceived barriers to engagement and assistance within local parishes. Participants cited poor responsiveness to communication channels, disinterest, obstacles encountered when seeking assistance or Sacraments from parish staff, and even refusal to help those in need.

To address those items identified as hindering the Church in fulfilling its mission, Jim Barrette, secretariat director of Pastoral and Educational Ministries, will establish a team to address two primary challenges: enhancing the formation and training of lay ministers and improving the hospitality of parish staff.

For lay ministers, the focus will be on advocating for a relational and transformative approach to their development. Meanwhile, efforts to improve hospitality will provide pastors with effective strategies to cultivate a culture of encounter and community of their staff with the people approaching the parish front desk, parishioners and committed disciples.

Ministry training and formation programs addressing these concerns are currently offered by various Archdiocesan offices, including those in the Pastoral and Educational Ministries. These programs encompass a variety of topics essential for effective ministry, such as altar server formation, catechesis, family ministry, retreat management, bioethics, young leader formation and others. Soon, the secretariat will offer and promote a workshop to front office parish staff on best practices for hospitality and engagement with lay leadership.

“Formation at every level of parish staffing is critical to the mission of the Church,” Barrette said. “We can never underestimate the importance of first impressions, beginning with people’s initial contact with our parishes all the way through well-formed disciples.”

As a cornerstone of pastoral planning efforts, the synodal disposition of reaching out, asking questions, and actively listening has been part of the Archdiocese for over two decades. For example, building on insights from synodal listening sessions held across the Archdiocese since 2021, parish pastoral councils have received guidance and practical support from the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, ensuring the effective discernment, implementation, and adaptation of plans over time.

This collaborative approach enables pastors and parish leaders to pinpoint key focus areas, address specific spiritual needs, foster growth, and actively engage the community in living out the call to proclaim the Good News of Jesus.

“These synodal listening sessions have provided invaluable insights into the sentiments and aspirations of our local Church community, which has become a focus of our current pastoral planning efforts to ensure that our parish and Archdiocesan goals are aligned to meet the specific needs of each parish effectively,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “As we continue our journey of discernment, guided by the Holy Spirit, our commitment remains unwavering — to proclaim the Gospel message of love and mercy to all, ensuring the voices and concerns of the faithful are heard, acknowledged and addressed.”

To view the Lenten 2024 Synodal Sessions Report and to learn more about synodality in the Archdiocese and pastoral planning assistance, visit www.archgh.org/about/pastoral-plan