The Catholic Church in Detroit is Unleashing the Gospel

jesus, Christian


The Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit is getting “turbocharged.” At least that is what George Weigel says.

In a recent article at First Things entitled “Motown and the Turbocharged Church”, Weigel had nothing but good things to say about Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s plan to “Unleash the Gospel” in the archdiocese.

“Motown may no longer be the epicenter of the global automobile industry. The Archdiocese of Detroit, however, is well on its way to becoming a shining model of how to gather and organize a local Church for the New Evangelization,” wrote Weigel.

Whether or not Weigel is correct, only time will tell. It is going to take quite a bit of prayer and a whole lot of resolve to turn things around in what became a “liberal” archdiocese in the 70s, and 80s.

But he is correct in that Archbishop Vigneron’s “Unleash the Gospel” is an “extraordinary pastoral letter.” It is actually a 45-page plan for implementing strategies developed during “Synod 16,” a three-day long, archdiocesan-wide meeting held in November 2016.   Clergy, religious, and lay people all “gathered to pray and reflect together on what will make the Church in southeast Michigan a joyful band of missionary disciples.”

A Roadmap

Unleash the Gospel contains ten guideposts, along with numerous, specific ‘markers,’ to serve as a roadmap for implementing the strategies of the Synod. It also contains a list of specific propositions and action steps to be used throughout the archdiocese, all intended to make the Archdiocese “a missionary Church.”

And there are a lot of really good guideposts, markers and action steps in Vigneron’s plan that may actually help ‘turbocharge’ the Church in Detroit. In fact, other dioceses and archdioceses might do well to take a look at the plan and consider putting together similar plans.

In addition to the ‘markers’ calling for a renewed emphasis on Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration, three of my favorite ‘markers’ are:

“We must provide our pastors, catechists and others with practical help and a systematized approach to presenting Christian morality. In particular, priests and deacons need training and resources for successfully preaching on the “hard topics.”

“Priests and deacons need to be bold in proclaiming all the elements of the Gospel, not only those parts that people want to hear. Preachers need ongoing formation in how to do so with compassion, conviction and clarity.”

And finally,

“Many parents have not been evangelized or well catechized themselves. In recent generations, the pattern for many Catholic parents has been to delegate their children’s religious education entirely to the parish, assuming that by doing so they fulfill their obligation to pass on the faith. Parishes must make every effort to resist this pattern since catechizing children has little effect if parents themselves are not living as disciples of Jesus. Parishes must look for ways to make catechesis and sacramental preparation family-based, helping parents grow in discipleship so that they can then form their children.”

Family Identity

One of the best parts of Unleash the Gospel is Action Step 1.3 – Christian Family Identity. In this step, Archbishop Vigneron charges all families in the Archdiocese to reclaim “their identity in relationship to God.”  He offers seven ways families can do this, and his suggestions really should be practiced by all Catholic families everywhere:

  1. Reclaim Sunday: attend Mass as a family and intentionally spend time with one another, including sharing a meal together.
  2. Commit to forming your family in the love and power of sacred Scripture by placing it at the center of your family life. Study and reflect on Scripture, especially on the Sunday readings. Participate in Bible studies, use the Sunday readings, Scripture aids, and participate in family fellowship where Scripture is shared. Make full use of Sunday parish opportunities to unleash the Gospel in your family.
  3. Create time for regular family meals without distraction to reclaim its sacred nature.
  4. Commit to developing family prayer time. Make time to listen, share, and grow together as a family guided by the Lord in times of joy and trial. Trust and develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Seek out simple ways to pray that fit your family, giving primacy to the family rosary, Scripture reflection, especially the Sunday readings, and devotions. Seek out and initiate opportunities to pray with other families.
  5. Reclaim the sacrament of reconciliation as a lived reality in your home: heal wounds and brokenness in your family through sacrifice, forgiveness, mercy, and love.
  6. Create a home where your family models Christ’s love, become aware of your neighbor’s needs and reach out to them with a welcoming spirit so as to share your faith.
  7. Parents: be the primary witnesses of the faith to your family.

The Mass

The single disappointing aspect of the plan, for me, a resident in the Archdiocese, was the wording used to describe what is needed with respect to the Mass, referred to in the plan as “sustained attention on the quality of the Sunday liturgy experience.” I’m all for creating a “friendly, hospitable environment where mutual love is evident,” but words like devotion, reverence, solemnity, piety, or penitence were sadly missing from what is needed to make sure that in the “the Sunday liturgy experience” the “people’s attention is truly focused on the Lord.”

As I opined last year here at CS, “Maybe taking the solemnity and reverence out of the Mass and replacing it with friendly and welcoming has not been such a good idea. Just maybe this new way of ‘Celebrating the Mass’ also has people thinking about Mass today in a whole new way as well: Maybe Mass is now thought of as more of a social gathering-type “celebration” where people are free to come and go as they please, as opposed to a solemn re-enactment of Christ’s death on the cross.”

Maybe the quality of the Sunday liturgy experience would be improved if the priests in the Archdiocese would start saying Mass ad orientum.  And maybe even offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form (TLM) once in a while wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

With all due respect to the Archbishop, the form of the Mass should not create a “friendly, hospitable environment where mutual love is evident.” This is up to the people attending the Mass.

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13 thoughts on “The Catholic Church in Detroit is Unleashing the Gospel”

  1. I can’t say I know the author, I stumbled upon this article. I’m also slightly behind on the topic, but as someone who was raised in the Catholic school system of the 1990’s I am offended by the author’s call for a more militant church.
    Jesus was taught to those of us in this generation to be a shepherd of the people. He wasn’t there to oppress and lead with an iron fist. He came to open the gates of heaven through love and community. Which is exactly what you want to do away with in the mass.
    In the Old Testament there was a great deal of teaching through the viciousness and absenteeism of a vengeful God. A God who showed little to no mercy. A God who created everything yet was willing to destroy the people of the world because he messed up when creating them.
    Christianity is 100% about the teachings of Jesus. When we learn something new or better or more true we discontinue teaching the old or untrue. This is the same when it comes to our beliefs. Jesus came along to say I am the Truth follow me. He didn’t say pick and choose what you like from the Old Testament, he is the Word. Jesus is, not was, love and understanding and community. The Beatitudes take the place of the Ten Commandments. The two greatests commandments were broken down to Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself anyway by Jesus himself.
    At the Last Supper, was everyone expected to be pius and solemn? Instead they celebrated and enjoyed themselves. They became respectful when it came to the Eucharist. If you ask about respect, then I don’t think anyone will disagree that Jesus, the mass, and the Eucharist should be respected. Though they are NOT to be feared.
    I could go on and on but I will end here. JESUS IS LOVE!

    1. Chris, I don’t know what article you were reading but nowhere in this article did I call “for a more militant church.” Asking for a return to piety and reverence at the Mass does not do away with the sense of community. The Mass is a communal celebration, but it was never intended to be a happy, happy social gathering. The Mass is a bloodless reenactment of Christ’s Sacrifice for us on Cavalry.
      If you were taught that the Beatitudes replaced the 10 Commandments, your religious education was badly lacking. The Old and New Testaments are the inspired Word of God and Jesus is the Word Made Flesh. His birth ushered in a New Covenant with all mankind, but the New Covenant did not replace God’s Teachings in the Old Testament.
      Also, at the Last Supper there was indeed a sense of piousness and solemnity. There was no celebration and enjoyment. Jesus knew he was going to his death and the Apostles most certainly sensed the solemnity of the occasion.

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  3. Let’s compare the wishes put to paper with the results in, oh, ten years hence.

    Color me a fluorescent shade of skeptical. If “Synod 16” was anything like the most recent such synod in my diocese, it was a gathering of selected insider “(c)lergy, religious, and lay people”. Over ten years later, I don’t see any fruit that grew out of that synod.

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  5. Do the editors of this site require that every essay include the wish to return to 1962?

    It looks foolish and it invalidates everything else that you wrote.

    1. Nope.
      What is foolish is the disbelief by most bishops that ‘clown masses’, hopeless guitar music and the many other indignities the Lord of the Universe endures each Sunday in His sanctuaries has not effected the millions upon millions who no longer show up to endure such atrocities.

      Nothing the author wrote is invalidated by his quite reasonable desire for a stable, reverent and mysterious Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If that means 1962, so be it.

    2. Nothing was more undignified, and more hopeless, than the pre-VII Latin Mass, with women prohibited from singing, priests never facing the communicants and speaking a foreign gibberish no one could understand but upon which Salvation depended, official anti-Semitism in the proceedings, cathedrals encrusted with luxury and corruption, praying that our Jewish and Protestant friends would go to Hell, and an absolute fear placed in every heart against the possibility of questions.

    3. The Latin Mass surely has many different aspects and rituals that may be hard to understand. However, that is partially the point. The Mass bids us to dig deeper into the meaning and mystery of right worship. This book by Fr. James Jackson which explains the Latin Mass would be very helpful to you.
      I know I received great benefit from reading it.

      Also, I just want to mention that the Mass is the Sacrifice of Calvary. Christ is present in the person of the priest offering Himself to the Father. This is what He commanded the apostles to do when He said, “Do this in memory of Me.” This means the Mass is not about you, it’s not about me, and it’s not about how the people in the congregation feel. Therefore, the priest does not turn his back to the people (in the Latin Mass), rather, he is interceding for the people in the name of Christ through the sacrifice of Calvary. If one insists the priest face him while this is done, I would argue that the essence of the liturgy as a sacrifice and worship of God has vanished and it has been replaced with a desire to be entertained. That is dangerous. What do you think?

    4. “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”. Likewise, the Mass is made for people, not the other way around. It exists to change us, so it has to take into account how the human mind works. To put it simplistically, it’s a question of “optics”.

      #1. Should we think of God as being in our midst? #2. Or is he far away?

      There’s no doubt in my mind that the Last Supper was #1. Jesus and his apostles gathered around a table, doing the most ordinary of things, drinking wine and eating bread. Hence, the westward position.

    5. You bring up some interesting points. I will respond to them
      in turn. 1) Technically, we’re talking about the Mass, not about the Sabbath day.
      So we’re talking about worship, not about a day of the week. And I think you
      would agree that worshiping God is the highest thing we can do as humans. So
      in that sense man was made for the Mass. 2) I think the idea of “optics” in the
      sense you seem to raise it is irrelevant. We shouldn’t be going to Mass or
      living a life of discipleship by asking whether God is near or far. Our guiding
      questions should be, Is my life pleasing to you, Lord? Am I doing your will?
      How can I serve my neighbor and bring him to you? How do I put you first
      always? If we are seeking the Kingdom by concerning ourselves with praising God rightly and serving our neighbor charitably then the question of God being near or far takes care of itself. 3) Lastly, the Last Supper was anything but
      ordinary. Christ instituted the priesthood, and the Mass, and He gave the
      apostles His new commandment. Yes Christ was facing the apostles during the
      supper. The apostles had the great and infinite benefit of seeing our Lord
      fact-to-face. In the Mass Our Lord is still present, but he is present under
      the veil of the sacrament i.e. the species of bread and wine and the human
      nature of the priest. Therefore, since we are not worshiping Our Lord in the
      same manner the apostles did, we must take care not to fixate on the veil of
      the sacraments through which Our Lord comes to us. This I think is probably the
      main point (or at least among the main points) behind the ad orientum stance of
      the priest as well as many other symbols and rituals in the TLM. Their beauty and mystery are there to remind us of the beauty and mystery of the One we worship Who cannot be fully grasped by us. Again I think Fr. Jackson’s book is very helpful in developing this point in more detail.

    6. Hmmmm, things you describe don’t last for a thousand years as has the Traditional Mass. Things you describe do not inspire the great saints and doctors of the Church to write about it and praise it’s elequence to save souls.
      The great composers, Bach, Mozart, Brahms would not spend months and years writing their magnificent music to complement something horrible like that which you describe.
      You don’t care too much for the Church. OK, fine. The Church and the beauty of the TLM will outlast you and yours. Bet on it.

  6. Good to hear of this .

    Hope many places would also look into ‘ cleaning the oil ‘ as put in this presentation and ministry format below , to make the ‘ cars ‘run well .

    In many lives , the oil might have become sludge from a variety of reasons , as many negative things we are exposed to , including new age , astrology etc too ( which they say , can make deliverance more complicated ) and the spirits that come with same , unless verbally renounced as done in this presentation ( towards the end ), thus to help people to be truly forgiving and accept our ‘ true identity and its mission ‘ , as ‘ beloved sons and daughters of The Father ‘ .

    Would be interesting to look into ourselves to see , if that is the identity or thought that first pops into our own minds ,when we think of ourselves or others and if not , recognizing the need for help in the Holy Spirit , for both sides .

    Such a process of thus being able to truly invite in The Lord , as Lord and Savior – they also recognize how there are many church going Catholics who may never have done same .

    True, Holy Mass is an occasion where in the idolatrous holds in our hearts are annihilated and the Lord giving us new hearts , in His Spirit , yet , may be more openness on our side with deeper faith
    in Him is what the above process helps us with so that our worship can have its benefits at much deeper , wider levels . – simple at one level , yet can see how when those with experience in much of the basics of this, by incorporating same in ministry , can impact profound and even rapid , yet ongoing benefits , in many lives .

    God bless !

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