When the 2015 World Synod of Bishops meets at the Vatican this October, the theme will be "The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World."
In preparation for the meeting, Pope Francis and the Synod Fathers have asked for input from all levels of the Church's life.
Each diocese will prepare a report on various aspects of marriage and family life within it, to be forwarded to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for the preparation of a national report.
The Diocese of Oakland has posted an online survey — both in English and Spanish — that needs to be completed by Feb. 23. The surveys will be tabulated to assist the bishop in submitting his summary report by March 20.
"Please share your thoughts and opinions about your family's reality and that of your friends," said Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ. "I will appreciate your thoughtful suggestions for living better and more fully Christ's teaching on marriage and family life in your parish and everyday life. The Church is making a sincere effort to listen and understand the challenges facing families all over the world and respond with the mercy and wisdom of Jesus Christ. Join us in this big task."
The 21 questions on the survey are based on 46 questions presented by the Vatican. The diocesan questions were prepared by Father Dan Danielson. His objective— "be faithful to what the 46 were after."
Father Danielson chose questions that respondents have "suggestions on what can be improved."
If 21 questions seem like too many, Father Danielson said people are welcome to choose only those they'd like to answer.
The questions, he said, are "to encourage creative thinking." If you think there's something lacking in support of marriage and family life, this is your opportunity to offer suggestions on what you think can be done to improve them.
The 2015 Synod continues the work of the 2014 Synod on the Family. In preparing for that meeting, a similar questionnaire was provided; 540 responses were received from throughout the diocese, both written and online. There are about 550,000 Catholics in the diocese.
When the responses are received and tabulated, Father Danielson will be taking those creative thoughts one step further: He will be creating a format for parishes to use to address those issues.
One example, he said, might be "How can marriage preparation be improved." "It's probably been 20 years since some parishes have looked at programs for married people."
Mimi Streett, coordinator of marriage and family life for the diocese, agrees that the information will be useful in creating and supporting future programs.
"Take the survey—preferably online—to share your family's life experience and suggestions on how to help make Christ's message on marriage and the family a more joyful reality in today's society," Streett said. "We hope these questions will cause you to reflect on these very serious topics and challenge you to prayerfully respond so that not only the synod will benefit but also our diocese," she said. "This is your opportunity to take an active role in responding to the needs of those around us. This office will be using your responses to better meet your needs and those of your parish and community."
The survey is available in English or Spanish at www.oakdiocese.org/survey.
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