Are the Synod & Year of Faith Just Inside Baseball?

Today, I read with great excitement Bishop Gerald F. Kincanis’ amazing blog post for Catholic News Service detailing the 57 propositions being put forward for consideration by the Synod Fathers. I have a few favorites among his summarizations, including:

  • The role of social communication is important in handing on the faith. The primary mode of evangelization is personal witness,  yet education in the wise and constructive use of social media is an important means to be utilized in the new evangelization.
  • The new evangelization requires personal and community conversion including new methods of evangelization and renewal of the pastoral structures, in order to be able to move from a pastoral strategy of maintenance  to a pastoral strategy that is truly missionary.
  • The Christian family as the domestic church is the locus and first agent in the giving of life and love, the transmission of faith and the formation of the human person according to the values of the Gospel. We must support the family. The new evangelization should strive to address significant pastoral problems around marriage: the case of divorced and remarried who cannot receive Holy Communion, the situation where couples are living together without marriage, and the trend in society to redefine marriage.

These are only a few of the many amazing and broad-ranging topics raised by the Synod’s rapporteurs — I recommend you take fifteen minutes and read the list. It’s definitely ambitious, but also likely critical if we are to advance the cause of the New Evangelization.

Honestly though, this list got me started thinking — how much is the average Catholic really aware of this Synod, the Year of Faith, or for that matter even much more than the name of the pastor at their parish? On Sunday, I waited during the homily at the parish I attended for mention of the Year of Faith, and even more-so of the canonizations we celebrated on Sunday. Neither came. There was a mention of the Year of Faith in the bulletin, and I do commend the parish for that.

But guess what… not everyone reads the bulletin. I attend Mass with my husband and teenage son, and could count on exactly one finger the amount of times I’ve ever seen either of them pick up the bulletin. I’m relatively sure both know about the Year of Faith, as we’ve been discussing it at home. But I’m also pretty positive that neither of them know about the Synod on the New Evangelization. For that, I blame myself as much as the Church… For all the time I spend blogging and tweeting about this stuff, I don’t always remember to have “real life” conversations about it with those who matter most in my life.

I’d blame the hectic pace of life or the fact that I’m pretty sure my attempt to start our dinner conversation with, “Hey guys, guess what happened at the Synod today…” would definitely be met with glazed-over looks of disinterest. But both excuses are a cop out. If this is a Domestic Church, then I’m failing in my job as one of her members if my “body of Christ” here in my own home doesn’t know that we canonized seven new saints on Sunday. I could wait for things like the Synod and the canonizations to be mentioned in a homily, but something tells me that’s not the safest bet. So I’m chastising myself a bit here as I raise the following question:

Are the Synod & Year of Faith Just Inside Baseball? Are these topics that the average Catholic in the pew will likely never hear about? Or have many parishes out there already fully embraced this Year as a remarkable opportunity to shake things up and to expect more of ourselves?

Help me out: how has your parish informed you about the Year of Faith? Are you being offered programs, books, homilies and prayers to support you this year? Or is it just business as usual around your parish? Has your family determined to anything proactive for the Year of Faith? For those of you with teen or young adult children, how are you helping them to move into this Year of Faith? I’d honestly love a great combox conversation on these questions and anything else you can share on this. Hopefully, my question in the title of this post will be answered with a resounding “No!”


About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at

  • maria

    Sorry, doll. It’s looking like a “yes” around here. And we’re a family that has been fairly active in our parish, together as a family, in the past. The kids are now scattered, and while I trust that they are going to Mass, I can’t say that the Synod is dinner conversation, either. Oh sure, we pray at the table, and we might discuss the readings or homily if we happen to be together, but the Synod? No.

    The new saints? Yes. Because I think it’s always neat, so I’ll bring it up. It’s not met with weird looks or disinterest, I’m just admitting that if it didn’t come from me, it wasn’t coming :)

    I’m sad to say it isn’t coming from the pastor, either. I hate for this to be an indictment on a kind and holy man, but he’s just not that connected with these things. I’m guessing, he’s so overwhelmed being an administrator that he doesn’t have the energy or the inclination to engage us in these conversations. I don’t know what to do about that although now as I write it, I am very much aware that if I see such a hole, I should step forward and help fill it, right?

    Except, of course, I don’t want to find the time to do it. How’s that for stark honesty. Sigh.

  • Deacon Sean Smith

    I’ll reflect on this more, but I had an initial reaction to your question, and I wanted to get it down. You asked “how much is the average Catholic really aware of this Synod, the Year of Faith, or for that matter even much more than the name of the pastor at their parish?”

    I think the answer is, they are essentially not aware at all. But that is sort of the point isn’t it? The whole thing is about recognizing that people are not aware about the goings on, and more importantly not aware of the riches to be found in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church he founded.

    If the people in the pews were so plugged in that they were aware of the Synod in any real sense, then we wouldn’t need the Synod in the first place! At some level, the starting point isn’t to make sure that everyone has heard of the New Evangelization. The starting point is to evangelize them! Then, as they are evangelized, we engage them in the business of evangelization. We can’t expect them to offer what they don’t have.

    Those that are the leaders (lay, religious and ordained) need today to know what the New Evangelization is about, put it into practice, and as more people are ready to take on greater roles, engage them. Actually, my fear is that we turn it into too much of a “program” needing “volunteers”. It is a mission needing disciples living out their baptismal call.

    • maria

      Mmmm. See what Deacon Sean says, “”disciples living out their baptismal call.”

      Duly noted.

    • lisahendey

      Deacon Sean, genius. I’d like to say that I was “hoping” someone would say this, but that would be dishonest. But of course, you are absolutely right!! The need exists, so therefore the Synod and the Year… I guess I should rightly be asking this question again at the END of the Year! Thanks for making the time to instruct — you made a difference for at least one person today!

      • maria

        two :)

      • Deacon Sean Smith

        I think it is an absolutely legitimate, important question. It is the sort of question that should be laid out at the beginning, as in what are the objectives for this Synod? I do not expect the answer would be “make sure everyone knows about the Synod”, but to “make sure those that are ready to take up their role in the NE know about it”.

        If you haven’t already, check out Archbishop Fisichella’s intervention ( He is the Prseident of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, so this whole thing is sort of his job. He says,

        The New Evangelization presents itself as a pastoral project which will engage the Church for the next generations. It is urgent that before “doing”, the foundation of our “being” Christian is rediscovered so that the New Evangelization is not experienced as an addition in a moment of crisis, but as a continuous mission of the Church.

        If it is really a pastoral project for generations, we need to be careful about how we evaluate the success or failure.

        • lisahendey

          Thanks for that link — heading over now to read it. I have SO much to learn, but it’s a blessing to have so many around me who are anxious to learn too, and — like you — to share their insights. A blessing!

    • Sarah Reinhard

      Deacon, LOVE your reply. I’m duly noting it too. :)

  • Marcus Allen Steele

    Okay, specific to your question, the Synod and Year of Faith are not only inside baseball but for executive suite only––players and coaches, we’ll get back to ya.

    Listen, I think it’s great that our hierarchy is looking at new evangelization. We need it! But there’s a lot of goings-on in a church calendar, tough for folks to distinguish between important, real important, no-kidding-this-is-important and hey-you-stop-listen-up-this-is-big-time-important!

    The Year of Faith was not mentioned in our bulletin or at the end of service when we do announcements.

  • Deacon Sean Smith

    After a little more reflection, I’d like to modify my original thoughts a bit. I really shouldn’t have conflated the Year of Faith and the Synod of Bishops.

    The Synod, or more importantly, the work of the Synod, is something that will be at work for generations, as Archbishop Fisichella stated. In that sense, an imminent familiarity with the Synod itself is not necessarily important for the majority of people. Experiencing the fruits of the Synod, yes; knowledge of the Synod, not necessarily.

    The Year of Faith is, by its nature, intended to be experienced here and now. In a sense, it is a work of the New Evangelization. It is a call this year to renew and foster faith, and is something that everyone should impact all of the faithful!

    • lisahendey

      I guess I started the conflating (or should that be conflation?). But I hear what you’re saying.

  • Nancy Nemitz

    Our pastor not only mentioned the Year of Faith but we are having a large number of talks and workshops on the subject at the parish. Father also mentioned two of the saints that were canonized because we have one of them in stain glass window already. Bishop Olmsted has also talked about it in the Catholic Sun, our diocese newspaper.

    • lisahendey

      Phoenix, right Nancy? That’s awesome — I’d love to know how well the programs that are being offered in the parish are attended. Terrific!

  • Joanne K McPortland

    In my parish we’ve been hearing a lot about the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith—that may be because we have a pastor who’s a former seminary rector and a gung-ho young pastoral associate. But we’ve also been finding (I work as a consultant for the archdiocese) that the themes, if presented well, strike a profound chord in many average Catholics. I think the Synod itself IS inside baseball, but it has the potential to ripple if the rest of us—the “coaches and the players,” as Marcus Alan Steele said above, put those notions into action. Like most movements of the Spirit, it may be that those who are moved by grace to renew their faith or come back to it or explore Catholicism for the first time will not be able to name or describe the Year of Faith or the New Evangelization, but that’s OK. But their fruits you will know them.

  • Sarah Reinhard

    Our pastor is doing some awesome stuff with the Year of Faith, both in our bulletin (a full page every week) and with the very end of his announcements. He started out the first week with a simple practice for everyone to make: make 5 Signs of the Cross each day. That’s it. He’s grown it, so that now we should be making 5 Signs of the Cross, praying a decade of the rosary, wearing a scapular or medal, and sharing a Holy Card or religious article with someone. Those announcements at the end of Mass? He records them and we’ve been putting them on the parish website each week.

    He’s really open to doing things with New Media, and (not?) lucky for him, there’s a certain parishioner I know who’s passionately and a pest…

    I think our average parishioner knows SOMETHING is up.

    That said, I’m going to recommend again that Matthew Kelly book, The Four Sings of a Dynamic Catholic. I think the real “problem” here, if you want to call it that, is that some huge percentage of Catholics in the pews at Mass are disengaged. You and I, we’re engaged. (Maybe over-engaged? Nah. Not that.) And then there are the people who are more active in their disengagement.

    I think the most powerful thing we can continue to do in the New Evangelization is the hardest: to live our lives and be witnesses through each moment of our day. Not preach, not use words, not go all crazy daisy. (Or is it just me?) Just live each moment in the present to the best that God would have us live it.

    At those things, I fail. Largely. Loudly. Continually.

    I need this Year of Faith in a BIG way!!!

    • lisahendey

      Sarah, I love those “baby steps” — I need that type of thing in my life. Could you drop a link to your parish website in the comments? I’d love to see it!

      • Sarah Reinhard

        Sure Lisa. Here you go.

        • lisahendey

          Wow, that’s a great looking site — do you do it? I love that he has the homilies online. I haven’t been able to get that done at my parish…