SAN DIEGO — The Diocese of San Diego moved quickly in the New Year to implement the synod’s proposals to strengthen Catholic marriage and families:
• Ten churches across the diocese became “pilot parishes” and began forming committees of parishioners to lay the groundwork for the proposals to become reality. This is important because the main work of strengthening families has always been envisioned as occurring at the parish level, led mainly by parishioners, and not necessarily at the diocese.
• Two task forces met to begin their work on engaging young adults and couples in parish life and on establishing the best practices for marriage preparation.
• The diocese began accepting applications for the director of the newly configured Office for Family Life and Spirituality.
Some 120 delegates, mostly parishioners, participated in an extraordinary synod on marriage and family the diocese organized in the latter half of 2016. At its conclusion, the delegates presented Bishop Robert W. McElroy with 15 proposals to meet the synod’s goals: to welcome unmarried couples to the Church, to offer pastoral support for the divorced, to witness the beauty and realism of marriage, to nurture and form children, and to bring spiritual depth to family life.
A 25-member committee is meeting monthly to advise the implementation of the proposals, which also are being reviewed by the Priestly Council.
The task forces had an introductory meeting on Jan. 8 at St. John the Evangelist Parish in San Diego.
“We need your ideas to make the proposals a reality. Otherwise, they are just works of fiction,” said Paulist Father John Hurley at the start of the first task force meeting.
That group is to recommend strategies a parish can use to welcome and accompany young adults and couples into the full participation of Church life. Father Hurley stressed that no single strategy would work at every parish, but rather should be tailored to each location’s demographics.
The participants were young couples or parishioners who had worked in young adult ministry. They shared what initially drew them to their parish and had kept them engaged in it. For their next meeting, Father Hurley asked them to bring ideas of how to interest young adults and couples in participating in parish life, consulting with fellow parishioners. He told the group that he hoped they will have concluded their work by mid-year.
The second task force will focus on the subject of marriage preparation. The group mainly will evaluate the marriage prep programs that are available, including online and those offered by other denominations, and recommend what the diocese should use in the future.
The task force members decided to conduct an online survey to find out what each parish does to prepare couples to marry. And they divided other fact-finding tasks among the members. Father Hurley told them that he hoped they could complete their work by summer.
Meanwhile, the diocese’s Human Resources department began accepting applications for director of a new Office for Family Life and Spirituality. Synod delegates proposed the creation of this office, which will serve the distinct needs of engaged couples and the newly married and those going through separation or who are divorced as well as promote family spirituality.
The 10 parishes that became “pilot parishes” began organizing themselves to begin to carry out the synod’s proposals. They are El Centro Catholic Community, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe (Chula Vista), Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Sacred Heart (Coronado), St. Brigid, St. James, San Rafael, St. Therese of Carmel and Santa Sophia.
At the synod, many delegates said they needed more information about conscience formation and the internal forum, two fundamental concepts of Catholic teaching that Pope Francis referred to in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of Love.” Father Hurley told the members of both task forces that the bishop decided that the clergy in the diocese would reflect on these concepts in the coming year.
Complete information about the synod, including photos and videos, may be found at www.sdcatholic.org. Questions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.