By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
LONG GROVE — The Holy Spirit helped guide Candy Boucher in setting up nearly two dozen synod listening sessions for St. Ann Parish, she said. Boucher, who leads adult faith formation for the parish, has completed listening sessions so far with children, teens and several parish organizations. Sessions continue through the end of the month mostly in person, but also online.
“I am so thankful for this synod and for the part I can play in it,” she said. She expressed thanks to Pope Francis for giving her, the mother of four adult children who do not attend Mass regularly, the opportunity to ask them: ‘“What fills your heart about the Catholic Church and what breaks your heart about our Church?’ I hope to hear their answers in a Zoom session on March 28.”
She appreciates the people who have served as facilitators and recorders for the listening sessions, which she believes have been “well accepted and one of the most amazing things I’ve done with and for the people of God in over 50 years of ministry. What amazed me the most were the things people talked about.”
Boucher challenges her staff and others to take action on the things they are able to do that people have mentioned in listening sessions. “This is not an outcomes-based process, but if we have it in our job description to improve the experience for someone, we should.” For example, a student missed hearing the parish’s bells ring. “Programming the bells is one of my jobs here at the parish so, the following week, I rang them. That is an easy thing to do. But, I also heard a group of women discussing how difficult it is to have decisions about people’s marriages (a declaration of nullity, for example) made by people who have never married. There is plenty of room for pastoral growth in our Church.”
In the session for elementary and intermediate students, “they did talk quite a bit and had some very interesting observations about music. Some liked it, some didn’t like singing; one girl liked the organ and piano. I asked if she meant playing or listening and she said she would like to play someday.”
The high school students referred to “low energy at Mass and were sad because some people only come occasionally. Some said everyone is accepted no matter what but others said the Church is really strict. What filled their hearts was that Church was welcoming, a good place to feel close to God and, like many adults, they recognized that the Church is ‘the same’ wherever you go.”
Organizations within the parish also participated in listening sessions. Some people were not “as eager to share personally,” Boucher noted. Some upcoming listening sessions will take place in the community for parishioners, Catholics and non-Catholics to attend, including a “Pope’s pizza party.” A new restaurant in town has half-priced pizza on Thursdays, she said. “The pope likes pizza.
We are hoping that will draw some folks out.” “Pints with the pope” will take place in nearby Park View at a location where many parishioners eat lunch and play cards.
A Facebook meeting and community Zoom session are other options for potential participants, along with the opportunity for parishioners to complete a form online, on paper or over the phone. “Those may be submitted anonymously,” Boucher said.
Her favorite comment so far came from a kindergartener who “thought that the grown-ups shouldn’t carry the (Book of the Gospels) up the aisle in the processional. They thought that the job should be done by kids because ‘kids could get it up there quicker!’”