In recent years, the archdiocese has dealt with the resignation of its archbishop, bankruptcy, and fallout from a serious sexual abuse crisis in the region.
Several years ago, in 2015, then-Archbishop John Nienstedt resigned after the archdiocese was charged with mishandling sexual abuse cases.
The years-long efforts to deal with the pressing clergy sex abuse crisis put other important priorities such as evangelization on the "back burner," Archbishop Bernard Hebda said in a June letter announcing the synod.
Now the church needs to turn toward these priorities without abandoning its work of rebuilding from the abuse crisis, he said.
"Without losing sight of either the critical importance of our Catholic schools or the urgency of creating safe environments and engaging in outreach to those who have in any way been harmed by the Church, we now need to be deliberate in moving forward on other fronts," Hebda wrote.
A diocesan synod, Hebda said, draws from the 1983 revised Code of Canon Law and can be "a tool for the bishop to engage the People of God (laity, clergy, consecrated men and women, and bishops all walking together) in exercising the responsibility that flows from our common baptism, always in the hope of strengthening the communion that is the Church."
In preparation for the synod, 20 listening and prayer events have been scheduled, seven of which have already taken place, Hebda told CNA. He plans to attend each session, with auxiliary bishop Andrew Cozzens attending most of them.
Each gathering lasts around three hours, he said, the first half of which is spent in guided prayer followed by small group discussions for the second half. Discussions feature participants sharing their view of God's blessings and challenges in their lives, and where God is leading the church.
Attendance at the sessions has been greater than expected, Hebda said, and the results of the meetings will be collated for discussion at the parish level next fall.
Some of the main points of discussion have been concern for baptized Catholics who have drifted away from the faith-especially among youth and young adults-as well as "connecting catechesis and evangelization" and "the importance of liturgy as a means of drawing people to the truth of the faith," Hebda said.
He emphasized trying to help the lay faithful listen to the Holy Spirit and to discover the "gifts" God is bestowing upon the lay faithful, and "seeing that as a possibility for really hearing what it is that the Lord wants us to know and to do."
Healing from the abuse crisis has also been a point of discussion at the meetings, Hebda said, as at most events attendees hear from a "victim survivor of abuse."
Matt Hadro was the political editor at Catholic News Agency through October 2021. He previously worked as CNA senior D.C. correspondent and as a press secretary for U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.