The family has never before been in the crisis in which it now finds itself. How can the Church offer healing?
The faithful are being asked to provide their input on this topic through a questionnaire available online in English and Spanish through Sunday, Feb. 22.
The 46 thought-provoking questions regarding the family are aimed at gathering thoughtful responses from Catholics ahead of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops that takes place in Rome this October.
Mike Phelan, director of the Office of Marriage and Respect Life for the Diocese of Phoenix, hopes that people will take the time to prayerfully offer their ideas.
“If they are passionate about the family and have something to say about what’s going on in the world today and how we can help pastorally, then they should go and do this,” Phelan said.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted is asking the faithful to participate in the process as well.
“I ask Catholics to prayerfully and purposefully consider each question in the questionnaire,” Bishop Olmsted said. “These important questions will assist me in offering a summary on the Synod’s theme of marriage and the family.”
Phelan emphasized that the objective of the questionnaire is to gather ideas about how to better support the family. The survey, he said, isn’t about proposing doctrinal changes to the Church’s understanding of marriage.
“The Church is asking people, ‘What do we need to do to support families that are deeply broken and deeply suffering?’” Phelan said. “We need to be radically creative with how we go to where families actually are. So many families hurting, and how do we actually reach out to them?”
A committee appointed by Bishop Olmsted will review and summarize the results of the questionnaire. The response from the Diocese of Phoenix will be shared with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and then incorporated into a document that will be forwarded on to the Vatican for use at the Synod.
To help prepare for the October 2015 meeting, Pope Francis asked bishops around the world to consult with the faithful in developing a new set of questions aimed at getting a better understanding of the challenges faced today by families. The online questionnaire is in response to Pope Francis’ request.
One of the questions asks, “How can people be helped to understand that no one is beyond the mercy of God? How can this truth be expressed in the Church’s pastoral activity toward families, especially those which are wounded and fragile?
Phelan said the questionnaire is lengthy but asked the participants not get discouraged. “Even if you answer only two or three questions, if it’s thoughtful input, it’s very helpful,” Phelan said. The pope has asked for as wide a response from the faithful as possible, he said.
Cristofer Pereyra, director of Hispanic Missions for the Phoenix Diocese, is on the committee that will review the responses to the questionnaire.
“The Church is doing this because they want to make sure that people feel welcome,” Pereyra said. “They are looking for pastoral solutions to the different circumstances that we see today.”