For more than two months, parishioners shared their thoughts and aspirations about the faith in Synod meetings here. It was part of an initiative established by Pope Francis to hear from Catholics throughout the world. Here at Immaculate Conception Church, more than 100 people participated in 14 meetings, conducted in English and Spanish.

A summary of our sessions has been sent to the Diocese, which will be used in Rockville Centre’s report to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops who will then send a report to Rome. We also will try to incorporate many of these ideas into our parish life.

We thank everyone who took part in this enlightening and uplifting process. Here is a brief summary of what was on the hearts of those who attended, arranged in terms of four categories:

Journeying Together

  • Remembering that “Catholic” means “universal” and everyone is our neighbor, and everyone should feel welcome
  • We need to carry the faith one person at a time, allowing each to pass it along
  • God isn’t just “in church.” Being good examples for each other begins in the home, then outside the home in neighborhoods
  • Young families are not a significant enough part of the church. There is a need to reach out to those families, perhaps with family catechesis programs
  • Catechesis of adults would be great, even on a casual and occasional level
  • The pandemic severely hurt the atmosphere of togetherness. Social activities and other efforts at welcoming would be especially timely now
  • Joys of the journey include seeing the growth of faith in RCIA and Charismatic Renewal; enjoying visual aspects such as our beautiful seasonal altar decorations and seeing the church full on feast days
  • Obstacles to the journey include seeing many empty pews on non-feast days, families’ time constraints, preoccupation with technology and social media, fissures that date back to Vatican II.
  • Synodality can be a start toward healing those fissures.

Communion

  • Prayer, preparation, scripture study and familiarization with church virtues all promote communion
  • Focus on Jesus’ physical presence is essential. We are also connected by the Word of God. Bible In a Year podcast is exemplary
  • The Communion of Saints is a major part of our faith
  • We can take a cue on community from the Presbyterian Church across the street, and we can expand our dialogue with them by sharing ecumenical services (such as the recent prayer for Ukraine)
  • Seasonal population shifts represent a major challenge to communion
  • Bringing Holy Communion to the homebound is a powerful witness. Also among the joys of parish life is Adopt-a-Family at Christmas and other such programs.
  • We need to define who is on the periphery and then reach out to them
  • Among the sorrows of parish life is a lack of appreciation and reverence for sacraments, especially baptism (which often is seen as more of a cultural experience)
  • Communion begins with the domestic church. Children are responsive and receptive when their families pray joyfully at home

Participation

  • Our new music ministry has been a great help in enhancing participation in the liturgy
  • Parishioner participation is largely a function of the experience people have in church. To get people interested in joining a community, you need to have the type of community they’d like to join
  • We need volunteers for our parish to be made whole, but voluntarism is down in all segments of society, post-pandemic
  • Education is needed on the aspects of the Mass, particularly the responses. See participation in the Mass as a privilege, not an obligation
  • People lead busy lives with multiple jobs, many activities for young people, especially sports. That makes them think of Sunday as a “day off.”
  • Reach young people where they are, and where they are is social media
  • While making efforts to attract young people, there should also be an initiative to honor older parishioners
  • Invite, invite, invite. Keep encouraging people, on a personal level whenever possible

Mission

  • Openness to the Holy Spirit is essential, and the Spirit can come to us in different ways. Often when we least expect it
  • In a divided country and divided world, one would expect the church to be one entity that can bridge the gaps. Sometimes, that has not been the case. That must change
  • Build on small things, such as inviting our First Communion students to restore the St. Francis statue near the Parish Center. Also note that sacramentals are very popular, including among people who are not regular church goers
  • Women should be allowed to feel that they are important and equal sharers in the church and its ministries
  • As Catholics, we need to talk more about God and represent His peace to the people we meet
  • This is a very valuable and important moment for the church, one in which the laity must be deeply involved and responsible
  •  Hope is a cherished Christian virtue and is essential, especially now in a world ravaged by a pandemic and violence. No matter what, the church and its members must exude hope