In February of 2019, nearly 400 people gathered with me and launched an intense six-month planning process which resulted in The Pastoral Strategic plan. This plan included over sixty recommendations for the determined priority areas. A Strategic Planning website—
Fallriverplanning.org—was created to document a thorough “planning scorecard” showing the status updates and progress. The scorecard, a subset of items that we’ve been working on here in the Diocese, is quite a remarkable reminder of all we’ve been able to accomplish even in the face of the pandemic.
My Pastoral letter published on September 24th represents a look forward, the next steps as a Diocese and, just as importantly, as people of faith. As a witness to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our world, several of the themes drafted in the Pastoral letter are being seen in global and national initiatives. What incredible evidence that we are truly one Church with shared goals of becoming faithful disciples of the Eucharistic Lord and journeying together toward the ultimate goal of being with Him, forever, in heaven.
I will include more on my vision for moving forward presented in the Pastoral letter in the coming weeks’ blog posts. Additionally, I will share developments received from the Vatican on the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on its 3-year Strategic Plan, “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope,” especially regarding their implementation in our Diocese.
Opening of the Synod
On October 9-10, 2021, Pope Francis will celebrate the official opening of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. At his request, I and bishops around the world will then celebrate the official opening of the synodial process in our local dioceses the following Sunday. I will celebrate the 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral on October 17 to mark the opening of the Synod in the Fall River Diocese. My hope is for the entire Church to be represented in some way during this Mass. Although open to all who wish to attend, I recognize the difficulty of participating in person, especially for our clergy. To that end, I encourage each parish to offer a Mass marking this important occasion.
The title for this Synod, “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission,” may appear complicated, but at its root is the idea of what we’ve been trying to accomplish as a Church for years. It is not merely about the Church hierarchy but every participant in the life of the Church — Bishops, clergy, and laity — alike. The process will include listening to the local churches from across the globe, truly listening, and working together. It is not an event but a process and ongoing movement of the Spirit that encompasses bringing together every aspect of the mystical Body of Christ—which includes each and every one of you.
As I expressed in my Pastoral Letter, my prayer is that all the faithful will see themselves as a crucial and integral part of the future of the Catholic Church. And, along with that, for the Eucharist to be an evermore present revitalizing force in building disciples and immobilizing faithful missionaries. My dear friends in Christ, we’ve all experienced so much loss and difficulty in the past eighteen months; it is time now to emerge with courage and confidence in our Risen Lord.
I look forward to sharing more information on the local synodal process as it becomes available in the next few weeks.
Observing Respect Life Month
On Sunday, October 3rd, I was honored to celebrate the annual October Respect Life Month Mass. The USCCB’s Respect Life committee created a wonderful website of resources and ways for each of us to cherish, defend, and protect those who are most vulnerable, from the beginning of life to its end, and at every point in between. To learn more, please visit RespectLife.org.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha