Several years ago, I began writing petitions for the prayer of the faithful at Newman Catholic Parish. In one of my first petitions I wrote “For the wisdom of Pope Francis as he continues his work of decentralizing the Catholic Church”.
I heard from my pastor that the local bishop was not happy with this petition. Either he didn’t think the pope was decentralizing the Catholic Church, or he wanted to keep it a secret.
Recently, Pope Francis took two important steps to further his decentralization of the Catholic Church.
On March 19, he issued a new constitution that decentralizes administration from the Vatican’s central bureaucracy. In this 54-page document, he restructures the offices of the Vatican and allows lay people and nuns to head these offices.
Cardinal Blasé Cupich of Chicago notes that substantial changes are coming. For example, he says the new constitution makes it clear “we are not just involving clerics in the selection of bishops, but we are involving lay people.” He adds: “I think it is the most important document from Rome to deal with the implementation of the [Second Vatican] Advice.”
People also read…
Besides the decentralization of administration, the pope is also changing the way he listens to people. At previous synods, he mostly heard from bishops and clerics. The preparatory documents for Synod 2021-23 make it clear: Bishops around the world are called to do “everything possible” to consult and listen to those who feel “excluded or marginalized” from society and the Church.
Several dioceses are following creative options to follow this instruction. In Chicago, through his Kolbe House Jail Ministry, Cupich listens to about 700 Catholic inmates on remand in the Cook County Jail.
In Washington, DC, Archbishop Wilton Gregory organized listening sessions for the Deaf community led by Deaf lay leaders. Also in Georgetown, there was a special listening session for several LGBTQ parishioners and their families.
In Washington State, Catholic Community Services provides in-person bilingual listening sessions at food banks, homeless shelters and rural mobile home communities in Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia.
In San Diego, Catholic Charities is in contact with migrant seasonal agricultural workers, particularly those who work the land in the Imperial Valley of Southern California.
Today, April 3, our pastor, Father Billy Dodge, is launching a plan he learned from Tom Zinkula, Bishop of Davenport. Ironically, Father Tom Zinkula and I had many conversations about the church when we both lived in Dubuque.
Father Dodge challenged us to listen to someone from each of the three categories——(1) someone who is in the pews of the Catholic church, (2) someone who has ever attended a church Catholic, but no longer does, and (3) someone who has never been a Catholic.
We only have to ask them two questions, listen to their answers and note down their comments to transmit them anonymously to our parish and our diocese.
1. Reflecting on your experience of the Catholic Church, what positively fills your heart?
2. Thinking about your experience in the Catholic Church, what breaks your heart?
We just need to receive feedback without judgment or response. We want the experience to feel safe enough for you to be honest.
I would be happy to interview as many of you as I have time by June 1st. If you are interested, contact me at [email protected] Please leave your name, email address and the group you identify with. I will contact you to arrange a meeting in a café.
I want to do my small part in the decentralization of the Catholic Church.