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Michael Jensen

Pope Francis: A Synodal Church is What God Desires for the Third Millennium

The Catholic Church recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis—a centrist who masterfully challenges the extremes of the Church to avoid unhelpful reductions – has exhorted Catholics to eschew “worldly progressivism and backward-looking traditionalism.” Both of these movements to the extremes, embraced often by the most vocal Catholics, contradict the true nature of the Church, which is at the same time, both traditional and progressive. The Church, which is called to adhere to tradition, is also called to follow the Spirit which leads the Church to reform, to greater freedom, and to new ways of following the call of Christ to spread and live the good news. A Catholic Church freely and fully alive, embraces the future with both humility and confidence, knowing that the Lord is always out front leading us where God bids us to follow.

Here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Church leaders, particularly Archbishop Hebda, has exhorted our local Church to follow the Spirit and to listen to the voices, dreams, and concerns of Catholics, as we discern what God is calling us to, consistent with our mandate to announce the saving love and mercy of God. There has been significant planning, dialogue, prayer, and now preparation that has marked our synodal process as a local Church in the Archdiocese. Attendant to this call, all Catholics are called to freely take up the Lord’s invitation to give testimony to what, and more importantly, in whom we believe. At Mass for the Thursday of the 31st Sunday in ordinary time, we hear the fiery words of St. Paul who calls us all to seek the supreme good of knowing Jesus Christ. So, how do we know Christ? W. Through Scripture, the sacraments, the natural world, one another, and always in the poor and marginalized.

Pope Paul VI, Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis have embraced the synodal way—a way of humility that listens, learns, serves, and accompanies all on our journey of faith. The predominant image of the Church at Vatican II was the People of God on a pilgrim journey of faith. This image continues to resonate powerfully with Catholics as we walk together on our journey of faith—a journey that humbly follows the path laid out before us by God. Soon, Archbishop Hebda will promulgate a new pastoral letter which will mark both the process of fruitful listening to God’s people, and which will set a course for our future as a local Church. I look forward with anticipation and eagerness to Archbishop Hebda’s pastoral vision, borne of dialogue, accompaniment, and openness to God’s liberating Spirit.

At The Basilica of Saint Mary, consistent with the vision and values of our local archdiocesan synod and also consistent with the synodal way inaugurated by Pope Francis, I plan to initiate listening sessions and opportunities for dialogue with parishioners and friends. Our parish council has expressed support and eagerness to help me put this together. As a new pastor, I would like to know what are on the minds and in the hearts of all of you. I would like to know what fills your heart about being Catholic and what are the challenges you face in living out your Catholic faith. In addition, I would like to hear from you about the strengths of our Basilica community and ways in which we could better meet your spiritual needs and accompany you on your journey of faith. A synodal Church is one that is open to the Holy Spirit—a synodal Church is a Church that listens, accompanies, and heals. I look forward to these opportunities to enter into dialogue and share our common hopes and dreams as we continue our journey of faith together at The Basilica.




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