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Nancy Lobsinger of St. Pius X Parish in Omaha makes a point during small-group discussions at the March 29 pastoral planning listening session at St. Cecilia School in Omaha. Listening are Rischa Leuck of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Omaha, left, and Barb Haesaert of St. Pius X. Photo by Joe Ruff/Staff.

Catholics share ideas, archbishop listens

Faith-filled, trusting and frank.

That might describe the way people who rose to the microphone shared their ideas during Archbishop George J. Lucas’ eighth and final listening session March 29 at St. Cecilia School’s cafeteria in Omaha – reflecting on the many blessings and services of the church and offering wide-ranging ideas for renewed pastoral initiatives.

Finding more ways to include women in ministry, strengthen compassionate outreach to immigrants, divorced Catholics and the elderly, gays and lesbians, and increase and perhaps unify already-generous social services were among suggestions as the archbishop seeks to establish three pastoral priorities, to be accompanied by goals, for the next several years. A plan could be developed by October.

Other suggestions included ensuring strong Catholic teaching in the archdiocese’s schools, continuing to defend marriage and the family in the midst of many challenges to both institutions, teaching people not only to know the faith, but to defend the faith, and finding ways to reach more young people and fallen-away Catholics.

Not everything can be done, the archbishop said. But every comment is important and will be considered, he said.

Sandra Stovall, a member of St. Benedict the Moor and Holy Name parishes in Omaha, said she was impressed with the archbishop’s willingness to listen and people’s comfort with sharing their thoughts. It pointed to a mutual trust between the archbishop and people in the archdiocese that will bear fruit, she said.

"I thought it was wonderful," Stovall said. "People were honest. They weren’t afraid to say what they had to say. We’re going to grow from that."

Those gathered at the meeting, which drew about 100 people, said many things are done well in the archdiocese, including many parishes offering daily Mass and numerous opportunities for eucharistic adoration and confession.

Many credited the archdiocese with an effective Catholic school system, strong communications and support for vocations, and thanked the archbishop for his openness and presence at activities in parishes, schools and ministries.

In a similar fashion to seven other gatherings held over the last two months across the archdiocese, the 90-minute session included small-group discussions of several areas of focus that could form an archdiocesan pastoral plan, including education and evangelization; governance and finance; worship and prayer; social services and outreach; stewardship; vocations and family life.

Six or seven focus groups being formed will meet in April to discuss at more length and work to better understand various themes and suggestions that have arisen from the listening sessions, said Deacon Steve Luna, director of pastoral planning.

And information from the gatherings will be studied by archdiocesan officials as they and members of an "envisioning committee" of clergy and lay people that is being created help determine a pastoral plan.

People who have not been able to attend a listening session but want to participate in the process can fill out a questionnaire available on the homepage of the archdiocese’s website, For direct access to the form, click here

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