Paulist Fr. John Hurley Leads Synod on Marriage and Family Life
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by Paul Snatchko
November 7, 2016

Paulist Fr. John Hurley served this year as the coordinator of the Diocese of San Diego’s Synod on Marriage and Family Life.

The synod process included two days of major gatherings on Oct. 29 and 30, as well as meetings of working groups and grassroots listening sessions (involving nearly 2,000 participants) in the preceding months. About three-fourths of the 113 synod delegates on Oct. 29 and 30 were laity and one-fourth were clergy. Participation was sought from each of the diocese’s 98 parishes.

The synod looked at ways to address the pastoral challenges in Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on marriage and family released April 8.

“A diocesan synod is the most significant level of dialogue, discernment and decision in the life of a diocese,” San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy said when he announced the synod.

While a number of bishops released commentaries on Amoris Laetitia, the San Diego diocese’s scope of response appears to be unique, Hurley said in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter.

“One of the things that has been brought to our attention is that this appears to be the first thematic synod [on application of Amoris Laetitia],” he told NCR. “We are not aware of anything else of this magnitude.”

There were no models on which to base the synod’s input gathering, feedback synthesizing, assembly deliberation and follow-up, Hurley also told NCR. “We pretty much developed it ourselves,” he said.

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In an Oct. 31 article, NCR reported that, “at the conclusion of a long weekend of intense discussion and deliberation,” the delegates presented Bishop McElroy with these 15 recommendations:

“Called for parishes to establish mentoring teams to ‘welcome and accompany young adults,’ to support married couples, to ‘engage military families,’ and to carry out marriage-preparation follow-up;

“Urged development of education and ‘formation in the areas of conscience formation and the internal forum, not only to implement the pathway to sacramental participation [for divorced and remarried] outlined in ‘The Joy of Love,’ but even more fundamentally to illuminate a core element of Christian discipleship itself;’

“Asked for creation of a ‘Diocesan Office for Family Spirituality’ that would, among other things, ‘develop resources for parishes to minister to families’ including ‘the divorced, single-parent, widowed, deployed, deported, special needs, multigenerational households, LGBT’;

“Encouraged nurturing ‘a culture of support’ in parishes and adding a staff position in the diocesan Office for Marriage and Family Life to provide help ‘for those in all stages of separation and divorce.'”