May 1, 2024 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

The faithful of the Diocese of Owensboro attend Chrism Mass during Holy Week on March 26, 2024, held in the Owensboro Sportscenter in order to provide adequate space for the crowd. RACHEL HALL | WKC

‘The greatest value was in the listening,’ says Bishop Medley on publication of diocese’s interim synod report


On April 2, 2024, the Diocese of Owensboro’s Synthesis of Synodal Listening in the Interim Phase was submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Made available to the public on the diocesan website, the report represented a summary of what Bishop William F. Medley heard in the five listening sessions held in the diocese during Lent. The sessions were held with the following groups: priests of the diocese, parish catechetical leaders and youth ministers, parish council representatives, Hispanic/Latino ministry leaders, and staff of the McRaith Catholic Center, which is the pastoral center for the diocese.

The next step in the ongoing Synod on Synodality process will be for this report to be combined with reports from all other dioceses in the United States, in the compilation of a national report.

Bishop Medley told The Western Kentucky Catholic that he was “very pleased” with the synthesis report.

“I believe that in a genuine spirit of synodality the report relates what I heard in multiple listening sessions,” he told the WKC. “As with the Church anywhere, what I heard reflects a range of opinions and thoughts. I felt it important to reflect that diversity.”

The sessions were held to address questions put forth by the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops during this interim phase. The initial questions focused on the Church’s structures and organizations – be they global, national, parish-level, and more – and how these have encouraged or hindered the Church’s mission. Other questions pertained to the Church’s leadership – whether global, local, clergy, or laity – and how it has encouraged or hindered the Church’s mission.

According to the published text, a total of 153 people participated in the sessions, which according to the published synthesis text were “engaged, participative, and expressed gratitude for once again having the opportunity to participate in the synodal process.”

The text stated that among aspects working well, “Several participants expressed their love for the beauty of the liturgical rites and for the universal nature of the church – both of which make us one.”

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., speaks during a conversation about the Synod on Synodality in Rome at a Nov. 14, 2023, session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Also pictured are Father Michael J.K. Fuller, USCCB general secretary; Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, USCCB president; and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, USCCB vice president. OSV NEWS/BOB ROLLER

Feedback in the report also positively cited local initiatives like Grace Marriage (a marriage enrichment program), Acts 2:42 (a small group faith-sharing program), a leadership formation program for lay leaders in the church sponsored by Brescia University in Owensboro, the diocesan youth camp, YOUTH 2000 (a Eucharist-based weekend retreat experience for teens), and the Owensboro Diocese Youth Conference held every other year.

The report listed several areas of frustration among listening session participants – such as, mentioned at each of the five sessions, a frustration about a lack of clarity among Church leadership, especially of Pope Francis.

“One of the frequently asked questions during our listening sessions was whether or not we would make public the report submitted to the USCCB,” Bishop Medley told the WKC. “The answer, of course, was yes. How could one be truly synodal if our report was not to be transparent?”

Another concern among participants, as detailed in the text of the report, was the diocese’s “lack of priestly vocations. There simply are not enough priests to meet the need. How do we help young men hear and respond to the call to priesthood? How do we empower families to cultivate vocations?” asked the report.

That section also included feedback from participants who wished for priests who are “healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually and who display joy in their ministry,” and who are willing to “relinquish control and to empower lay people to use their gifts in ministry and live out their baptismal call.”

A quote was included from an unnamed pastor in this part of the report, stating, “Authoritarian pastors/priests have hindered the Church’s mission in some places.”

Other areas of focus included the dwindling number of women religious in the diocese, the need for more well-trained lay ministers, the exodus of youth and young adults from parish life and even the Catholic Church in general, the need for more well-trained lay advocates to accompany people through the annulment process, and the request for more faith formation for adults.

The text stated, “As noted above, many participants expressed strong feelings about Catholic teaching and a desire for more clarity from Church leaders. They want to know what the Church teaches on difficult and sensitive issues – especially LGBT issues.”

The report included in its closing summary that “As with the previous rounds of listening done last year, there was nothing particularly surprising in what we heard.  However, the greatest value was in the listening itself and in providing a forum for people to speak.”

In his interview with the WKC, Bishop Medley said he is grateful to all who participated in the diocese’s synodal sessions over the past few years – in parishes, deaneries, and small groups.

“Joined with such conversations around the world, the General Synod will truly reflect the thoughts of the People of God,” he said.

To read the full Synthesis of Synodal Listening in the Interim Phase – In the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky, visit

Originally printed in the May 2024 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Rachel Hall
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