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Archbishop Cupich: Our contribution to the Synod of October 2015

6. april 2015

Archbishop Cupich’s Column

Archbishop Cupich skriver i  Catholic New World, bl.a.:

The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization

This October, bishops from around the world will gather in Rome at the invitation of Pope Francis to address issues related to the challenges facing families. This three-week meeting will continue the discussion begun last fall at the Extraordinary Synod.

Earlier this year, bishops were encouraged to participate in the planning by consulting widely in their dioceses. This past week I submitted our report, which benefitted from the input from various consultative bodies of the archdiocese (the Priests’ Council, the Pastoral Council, the Women’s Committee), as well as from parishioners at large with the help of their pastors.

This consultation, rather than a formal sociological study or a polling of public opinion, was about surfacing the perceptions of our people with the aim of discerning where God might be directing us today in the church in matters concerning family life and evangelization. The consultation was also meant to raise awareness of the importance of the theme of the synod: the vocation and mission of the family in the church and in the contemporary world.

While the Synod Office in Rome prepared documentation for the consultation, it became clear that a more accessible approach was needed. To that end, we developed the following five questions to capture the synod’s major and essential concerns:

  • How has family life been a grace or a blessing from God for you?

  • In what way does our American culture at this historical moment help or hinder our families from being the families that God wants them to be?

  • In your experience, what are the main challenges that families face today?

  • How can we as a church respond to those challenges?

  • Can you suggest ways that parishes can include and be more available to those who might be overlooked when we consider family life, for example, single people, the widowed, single parents, divorced or separated, those who identify as gay or lesbian and others?

In general, the responses to these questions suggest that the questions themselves were clear and important for the respondents. It would be difficult to report on the full range of responses here, but it is worth sharing some general comments about the responses grouped in three headings: 1) The value of family life; 2) The impact of the culture on families and 3) Some marital-familial situations that need specific attention by the church.

First, clearly people appreciate their families as a gift and blessing. More specifically, the love, the connection, and the sense of belonging that the experience of family brings point to a gift of God. Even in difficult circumstances, that sense of gift endures. Family members can bring the best out of each other. Families are also the place where all learn how to live with one another and to forgive one another. Families can also provide a sense of security in a very uncertain world.

Second, our American culture offers opportunities for families to grow and develop. Our stable political situation and our appreciation for individual freedom can create a space for families to develop in good directions. Economic opportunities enable the possibility for the material well-being of families. The American sense of fair play and the more recently emphasized value of tolerance enable a diversity of families to find a place in our society, which is particularly helpful to immigrants. Yet, there are many features of American culture in this historical moment that make genuine family life extraordinarily difficult and, at times, seemingly impossible. A pervasive materialism fuels a frantic consumerism. People are then defined — and they define themselves — in the measure that they can acquire things. This sets families, particularly young people, on a path of false expectations for happiness and personal fulfillment. Also, conflicting family schedules burdened by work, school and recreation commitments mean that many families have few common meals.

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