By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Listening sessions for Vision 20/20 are taking place in every parish/cluster in the Diocese of Davenport over the next two months as a way of identifying needs and challenges to missionary discipleship and evangelization.
To offer readers an idea of what to expect, The Catholic Messenger sat in on the listening session Oct. 3 at St. Alphonsus Parish in Davenport, which also included St. Mary Parish-Davenport and St. Peter Parish-Buffalo.
The participants first watched a welcome message from Bishop Thomas Zinkula. “I want to know what is happening in our parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions,” he said in the video. “I want to know what you are thinking and feeling. What we are hoping to achieve in the listening sessions is to establish a baseline, to understand the joys and hopes, the unique concerns and challenges that are facing our Catholic communities today. We have to know where we are before we can know where to go.”
Each listening session site has a volunteer facilitator. Beth Blough, auditor for the diocesan Tribunal Office, facilitated the listening session at St. Alphonsus.
Reading from the facilitator worksheet, Blough told the group, “Among the questions we will be asking is the issue of challenges or obstacles the church faces in doing the ministry of evangelization. We realize that since the time we began thinking of this Vision 20/20 process, our church has had to again face the tragic reality of clergy sexual abuse. We do not want to ignore that reality as we begin this discussion. At the same time, we realize that we face many challenges as a church and we do not want any single issue to dominate our conversation.
“Our goal is to hear from everyone, to listen respectfully, to be open to whatever is on your minds and to consider whatever concerns you have for this parish, for our diocese and for the universal church as we look at how we can better preach and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Father Paul Appel, pastor of St. Alphonsus, told the group, “It might be tempting to suggest solutions right away. But tonight we are not looking for solutions. Rather, we are trying to identify the status of the diocese in reference to the fullest expression of the church and its mission of missionary discipleship.”
Following the opening comments, the participants broke into small groups and took about 10 minutes to discuss each question. After discussing each question, they shared their thoughts with the large group and a scribe wrote down the responses.
The five questions, which will be asked at each listening session:
• In what ways does the parish reflect this vision of constantly going out beyond the four walls of the church to reach those who are not with us on a regular basis?
• What are the greatest challenges to evangelization in the parish?
• To what extent does the parish (and school if applicable) form evangelizing disciples of Christ —including youth, young adults and the ongoing formation of people of all ages?
• To what extent does the parish and you, as a parishioner, reach out to those on the “margins,” e.g., to those who are poor, sick, elderly, those of cultural diversity or those who might feel disenfranchised?
• What resonates with you in the pope’s words? What challenges you?
The session at St. Alphonsus lasted about 90 minutes. Regional conversations will be conducted after parish/cluster discussions conclude, with three to four representatives from each parish or ministry delivering the message heard at their listening sessions. Ideas distilled from the regional conversations will help identify certain themes to be addressed around the diocese during spring 2019 and at a diocesan convocation June 6-8, 2019, at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
Tom Stahler, a member of St. Alphonsus, attended the listening session at his parish. “I wasn’t sure I’d have anything to say, but it was easy.” He noted that Blough was helpful facilitating the discussions and encouraging everyone to share their thoughts.
A schedule of the listening sessions was printed in the Oct. 4 edition of The Catholic Messenger. The schedule is also available on The Catholic Messenger’s website under Diocesan News.