In preparation for its upcoming synod, the Diocese of Allentown has begun gathering input from parishioners on a variety of issues, such as consolidating parishes, developing vocations for the priesthood and financing Catholic schools.
The gatherings, called listening sessions, are implicating members of each of the diocese’s 152 parishes. They are meeting in their deaneries. The Lehigh Deanery, which includes 25 parishes met yesterday. The session for the Northampton Deanery, consisting of 28 parishes, will meet Nov. 3, and the 17 parishes of the Carbon Deanery will meet Nov. 7.
Bishop Edward Cullen has already attended some sessions to simply listen to the people.
Fr. David James, general secretary of the Second Synod of the Allentown Diocese, told The Morning Call that turnout at recent listening sessions has been larger than expected and has included a cross-section of the diocese’s cultural groups.
Fr. James encourages Catholics to continue to come out in large number. Catholics have a duty to express their spiritual needs to church leaders, he said. Canon 212 of Church law makes it a baptismal right, he added.
Ideas expressed at the listening sessions will be recorded and turned over to committees of the synod's 59-member General Preparatory Commission, who will present them when the synod convenes on three Saturdays in fall 2006.
There are six committees, which include restructuring and consolidating parishes, strengthening Catholic family life, recruiting clergy, financing Catholic schools, developing catechetical programs and evangelizing youth and young adults.
Though its recommendations are nonbinding, they are meant to influence the bishop as he sets the course of the diocese. The bishop is expected to issue decrees based on synod recommendations and his vision of the diocese's future on Dec. 8, 2006, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.