Diocesan report to the USCCB for the Synod on Synodality


CLICK HERE to read an introductory story about this report.

Approximately 300 people participated, in five locations and in Zoom sessions. The groups were very homogeneous: few under age 50, few people who were not White.

Respondents were asked to follow a process which allowed individuals to respond to the question and not enter a conversation about their responses. Priests and deacons were asked to meet in small groups separate from one another and the laity. Facilitators reported a good engagement by people, and offered some minor suggestions to improve future sessions using this kind of process.

Nineteen responses were received via email. These were individuals who were unable to participate in the evening session, but wanted to contribute.

There were hundreds of remarks recorded. In reviewing the facilitators’ reports and individual responses, some common points of interest and concern were recognized. This report identifies those common points. Copies of all reports and responses will be available online.

Addressed the questions:

  1. Where have I seen or experienced successes and challenges within my parish’s structure(s)/organization/leadership/life that encourage or hinder the mission?
  2. How can the structures and organization of the local Church help all the baptized to respond to the call to proclaim the Gospel and to live as a community of love and mercy in Christ?


Successes which encourage the mission of the Church were identified as the following:


Small groups

Small faith sharing groups, which reflect on Scripture, issues or other spiritual matters, were recognized numerous times as positive experiences for many people. They are seen as a way for adults to continue their faith formation. “Small groups are critical” for vital parishes, one respondent stated. “The use of small groups for our stewardship process got us started well,” another said.

Multi-generational events

These included social activities, as well as opportunities for faith-sharing, and experiencing the culture of other parishioners. Events which do not require parents to find childcare and which strengthen their formation as a family of faith were appreciated. “When cultures are shared, the entire parish is enriched,” one respondent said.

Some called for more intentional use of these kinds of events. “We are good at welcoming others to food events,” said one person. “What about for other activities?” Others suggested that these events can be a way of helping people recognize their participation in the parish extends outside of Mass.

Stewardship way of life

While acknowledging the implementation of the diocese’s renewed investment in stewardship required strong effort, respondents who mentioned stewardship generally saw it as a successful parish initiative.

Despite lingering concerns about the financial impact, it was recognized that the time and talent aspect of stewardship is a sustainable, organized way to get more people engaged in parish activities. Others recognized that this is a way to strengthen lay leadership and co-responsibility. “[Our] parish really needing something like that,” one participant said.

The use of the small faith sharing group materials has already been recorded. Others noted that providing people with a finite commitment (one year) to time and talent opportunities is appealing to those who are skittish about commitment. Access to conferences offered in Wichita and in Jefferson City is appreciated. The stewardship fairs were cited as ways for parishioners to mingle outside of their usual circles, and for parishes who are sharing a pastor to gather people who might otherwise not meet.

Structures beyond the parish

Projects and structures which allowed people to engage outside of their parish and become aware of the larger Christian community were also cited as ways to encourage the parish’s mission. Examples cited were a community warming center for those without adequate shelter, rallying around individuals or families in crisis, sending youth to camps or events.

Others also noted how the regular meetings of parish leadership within the deaneries are a way for parishes to share resources. Finally, having competent and trained staff were cited as a means to ensure success when parishes come together, whether for “stand-alone” activities such as a joint event for youth or if parishes are merging or sharing a pastor.

What are challenges?

The challenge most often cited was: Where are the next generations of volunteers/leaders? One participant poetically inquired whether Catholics will follow some other religious groups who once thrived but are now “left with being ‘cute, quaint and good for food’ and otherwise irrelevant.”

The concern that younger Catholics are not making the commitment as leaders or even as volunteers has been made in previous listening sessions and in surveys. This concern was illustrated in several ways this time, most notably in that parents of students in the Catholic schools are not modeling being active stewards in their parishes. Others cited that younger families prioritize other activities (sports was the one most often cited) over engagement with the parish.

Others acknowledged that perhaps one reason for disengagement by younger people is that older parishioners are not allowing the next generation to become involved. While it’s not possible to verify the correlation, it should be noted that, in other surveys and gatherings, younger Catholics have expressed frustration with not being welcomed into leadership or volunteer roles in their parish.

Other comments suggested that other factors for why younger Catholics are not participating could be:

“When decision-making resides solely with the pastor, everything stops/restarts with a new pastor.” Developing structures which encourage ongoing co-responsibility of lay parishioners can reduce the instability caused by leadership transitions. As one respondent explained, “Stronger leadership councils that defer to pastors and bishop but carry leadership structures forward” can provide stability for a parish. But work needs to be done, especially in the training and formation of lay leaders. “Parish councils have trouble setting vision and implementing,” said one pastor, a concern echoed by others.

Some parishes are experiencing people segregating themselves: young people/old people, Hispanic/White, school families/everyone else, etc. This lack of unity encourages cliques, which are unattractive to newcomers. One respondent offered a personal story: he/she had been attending Mass in Spanish since moving here more than two years ago; just recently (with a new pastor) did this person realize the Mass was part of a larger parish, with English-language liturgies and activities.

Volunteers feel inadequately trained, or don’t know what the expectations and standards are for their work/ministry. Others have attempted to volunteer, but receive no further information or details on how to become involved.

Lack of communication and connectivity between the groups, committees and councils in a parish result in fewer people knowing what is happening in the parish. Respondents recommended clearly defined expectations and processes so that activities, minutes and progress of all groups could be communicated to the entire parish — and beyond. As an example, one respondent said their parish has “many study groups, but they are not published for those who aren’t already involved.”


Even though respondents were segregated by laity and clergy, almost no one used the session to complain about their priests or deacons. What was reported was that the laity would like to see the priests freed of administrative or other tasks which are not germane to their Priesthood, and therefore being more available to parishioners, whether for phone calls, meeting with them in the parish office or going to parishioners’ homes or other public places. In addition, respondents asked for homilies that can help people connect the Scriptures with “real life.” “Parishioners should be able to relate the Church back to their lives,” one respondent said.


Adult faith formation

The challenge regarding the need for improved preaching could also be considered as part of a large group of comments calling for more adult faith formation.

In various ways, responses suggested the need for a more organized, diocesan-wide catechetical program for adults. Some pointed to the formation program for diaconal candidates as a possible model; others suggested a diocesan retreat center and a formal certification program. This request for a unified approach to adult faith formation was especially expressed by members of smaller parishes — an acknowledgement of the resources required to provide solid, high-quality catechesis and faith formation that are not available to smaller communities.