Diocesan Synthesis Report

The following Diocesan Synthesis Report was submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, June 30, 2022, to be included in the final report in preparation for the Synod on Synodality in 2023. Through listening sessions held throughout the diocese, parishioners and others connected to the Church were asked to share their thoughts on the life and ministry of the Church. The goal of the sessions was to truly hear concerns the faithful believe are facing the Church and what challenges they are experiencing in their family, community and parish.

For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission


Pope Francis has requested that a three-year Synodal process take place in all dioceses throughout the world. The process includes three phases of consultation and discernment—diocesan, continental and universal, and will conclude at the assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October of 2023.

This emphasis on “synodality” is a revival of one of the oldest traditions in the history of the Church. The early Church Fathers and Popes of the primitive church, the middle ages as well as into the modern period all continually emphasize the importance of local and regional synods. The Council of Nicaea (325) decreed that bishops should hold synods twice a year in their dioceses. The Council of Trent (1563) decreed that every bishop was responsible for convoking an annual synod in his diocese. During the ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s re-institution of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis expressed his desire for a Synodal path for “laity, pastors, [and] the Bishop of Rome.” As a fruit of this, a “decentralized” Synod process is being celebrated throughout the universal church, in continuity with this most ancient apostolic tradition.

The Synod process was officially opened with a Mass celebrated on October 9, 2021 in Rome by Pope Francis. Locally, Bishop Robert Marshall celebrated the opening Mass for the Diocesan phase of the Synod on October 17, 2021 in the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier.

Bishop Marshall appointed Rev. Peter Faulk, JCD to serve as the Diocesan Coordinator of the Synodal Process. A Diocesan Steering Committee for the Synodal Process was formed and met to initiate the preparatory phase. Deanery “listening sessions” were held in each deanery over the course of a six month period as well as a virtual consultation which was available on the Diocesan website. This report is the fruit of the consultation with multiple groups from the Natchitoches, Eastern, Avoyelles and Central Deaneries as well as the online survey.

Three salient points of emphasis emerged from the Synodal process in the Diocese of Alexandria: belonging, identity and momentum. Very honest remarks came forward which emphasized that people want to feel connected to the Diocese.

Communion - Belonging

By means of a prayerful reading of the individual and collective responses from the listening sessions, common themes were noted. As seen in some of the quotations below, people desire a concrete sense of belonging as a rich component of their Catholic faith:

“We want to feel connected to our parish. We want unity among the parishes. Without communication, we cannot succeed. Communication is of the essence. Your race doesn’t matter. Whether you are white, black, Asian or Latino, we all want to be treated like family in the church. We want to be connected to the Diocese. We must be willing to accept the past, to communicate and to move forward.”

“Minorities are forgotten about – even in majority Catholic populations. We need more cultural diversity. Everyone needs to be more deeply involved. All different groups need to be involved in what’s happening. The church needs to go where minorities are [located]. What are our needs?”

“We want unity rather than to be compartmentalized as parishes. The ‘Come to the Table’ program1 was a success. We want more programs like this.”

“We often think of the Church as just a building. A building will eventually get old, crumble and decay. The church is actually the people. We need to invest in people.”

“We need more people to come to Mass. We don’t need to be the frozen chosen. It’s not the new Holy Trinity of me, myself and I. There needs to be more of an attitude of ‘I’m glad to see you’ rather than ‘you didn’t make the sign of the cross just right.’”

“We need to make the church grow. A lot of people are A.C.E.’s – meaning, they just come to church on Ash Wednesday, Christmas and Easter.”

“We need to evangelize. The Church is a family and a community. We have to take it upon ourselves and be responsible for our time. We have to have a coherent message of welcoming. The messages coming from society are very persuasive. We need new people and new families.”

Comments also came forth concerning Catholics who have left the Church due to issues linked to divorce, remarriage and the annulment process. One observer commented in this regard that “divorce has driven a wedge between the church and many people. Former Catholics populate many other denominations. Perception becomes reality. We need to find ways to welcome people who have left to return to their home. We need to find a way to say ‘we want you back in our churches.’”

1 “Come To the Table” was a program initiated by the Diocese of Alexandria after the close of the Covid-19 pandemic. This initiative encouraged Catholics to return to the celebration of the liturgy, in accord with safety guidelines in place at the time. It featured video testimonials on the diocesan website and yard signs.

Participation – Identity

Catholics of the Diocese expressed a deep pride in their religious heritage and wish to be active protagonists in the life and mystery of the Church. This sentiment was expressed in all of the listening sessions throughout the diocese. This love for the Church was articulated in a desire for the Church to continue to develop and grow as an institution that promotes the love of Christ to all people in both word and deed. This was expressed in the following quotations from participants in the Synodal process:

“The congregation seems to be mixed on Sundays – black, white, creole and Latino. I think the universal Church under Pope Francis is doing well to reach out to the poor and marginalized. I hope that some of this will trickle down to the dioceses and parishes. I hope also that the universal church will begin to appreciate the expertise of laymen and laywomen.”

“The Diocese encourages and supports different prayer groups and retreats within church parishes located throughout. Some of those events are listed here but this does not include all spirit filled activities of the Diocese. A.C.T.S. Retreats are held by various church parishes and are held at our retreat center, Maryhill Renewal Center in Pineville, LA. The A.C.T.S. retreats are held with the goal of encouraging evangelization and being ‘Fishers of Men’. The retreats are spirit filled and those in attendance report feeling the Spirit in the various events throughout the retreat weekend. Also, the Diocese supports other events, i.e. the formation of the Carmelite Third Order, the Central Louisiana Magnificat group, the numerous Knights of Columbus chapters, Knights of Peter Claver chapters, vocational development and support of our seminarians through the Serra Club, support for the Catholic schools located within the Diocese, supporting our priests during these troubling times of Covid shut down, scandal and other negative maladies that they encounter. Also, the Diocese has added three certified spiritual directors as a resource for those seeking spiritual direction and guidance.”

“Our Diocese is diversified geographically, culturally and ethnically. There are people of all educational and socioeconomic means present in all of our parishes. Families and individuals are welcomed into the church by various events such as RCIA, Religious Education of children, inclusion in various events and activities of the church parishes they attend. Spanish Masses are held in the Diocese and the Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Conference office is located in our Diocese. This group hosts Masses in different parishes promoting the renewal of our faith and reaffirming our baptismal call as followers of Jesus to proclaim the good news. Some attendees wear costumes and perform dances reflecting the culture of the many tribes of indigenous people in our Diocese.”

Parishioners and visitors of the Church of the Little Flower in Evergreen, with their pastor, Fr. Ramji Shoury, honored the Feast of Christ the King with a solemn Eucharistic procession following the Mass on Sunday, Nov. 22.

Emphasis was also placed by many participants upon a desire to grow in understanding, appreciation and reverence for the Eucharist. It is the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus whom we receive and worship in every Mass. One participant noted eloquently that “the Holy Eucharist is the bread of the angels and should be treated as such.” Everything that the Church believes and does in the world is founded in and flows
from Jesus in the mystery of the Eucharist. Others observed that “[we need more] education on the Most Holy Eucharist, this precious gift of our faith. We invite and encourage people to attend Mass. We evangelize by speaking to others and sharing how God has worked in our lives.”

“Through the Eucharist we are to be united and this is the focal point of our belief. One bread, one body, one Lord, and it continues… Gentile, Jew, servant, free, woman, man, doctors, lawyers, and so on. No favorites. Everyone is always welcome.” “We need to place greater emphasis on the Eucharist and making it the center of our daily lives and the center of our lives as believers in the Catholic faith.”

Some participants expressed an interest in the Tridentine Mass and were disappointed that the Holy See has placed restrictions on these celebrations. Other participants were open to women deacons, married priests and other means of greater participation.

Mission – Momentum

A constant theme which emerged throughout the consultation process was the notion of service both within the inner life of the church as well as the wider civic community.

This was communicated by the ideal of spiritual conversion and renewal within the local church which would spill over into transformation of the world through the church’s outreach efforts. This was reflected in the following comment:

“There is a need to apply the Gospel to everyday life. To apply the Bible to everyday life and experience. We seek a deeper sense of spirituality and a deeper prayer life. Not just going to Mass for cultural reasons, but out of a deeper sense of spirituality.”
A desire was also expressed with regard to preaching and the teaching of the faith through high quality homilies and formation programs:

“We want teaching beyond the homily. There was a year-long bible study conducted for a group that went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was immersive. We need more programs and education like this. We want to go deeper into our faith and into the Bible.”

“Priests have many years of seminary education. We think that the laity could be formed by priests. The laity can take charge of day to day administration of the life of the parish. This could open up new avenues for priests to form the laity and deacons for ministry and for a more powerful outreach. Priests get all that education. They need to put it to work for more than just the homily.”

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Winnfield, celebrated Catechetical Sunday, September 19. Reverend Wade DeCoste, pastor, had special blessings for the teachers, students and parents. Father Wade blessed the children of the parish and then blessed the parents.

“The laity have so much zeal. We want to participate in the new evangelization. We need to create new and innovative ways to bring families together. To form young people. To form the catechists who teach our young people.”

“We need good formation from our priests. We want to truly understand what the Mass is and what the Eucharist is. We want to understand what the church truly represents: Christ in the world.”

A Protestant contributor stated that “there is a lot of beautiful tradition in the Catholic faith. But we must always remember that faith is about a personal relationship with God. [If I am] sitting in church and saying I’m a Christian, it is just like me sitting in my garage and saying that I’m a car. I have to have a relationship with God first. Then the traditions will take on more meaning.”

Another common theme that arose in all meetings was the desire for consistent retreats and days of renewal for adult women and men as well as youth.

Discussions about charitable outreach in the wider local community sparked enthusiastic dialogue and innovative ideas. Comments came forth concerning this area are as follows:

“We could bring meals to the sick. An elderly gentleman had surgery and the parish reached out and brought his family food and supplies. They really appreciated that. It really meant a lot to them in that moment. It was a form of laity to laity outreach.”

“We must look to the early church. We can see the importance of family ministry and spreading the faith through the life of the home. We must evangelize in our homes and then beyond the four walls of our homes and churches and into the wider community.”

“The A.C.T.S. community has the Helping Hands ministry. They assist people on Saturday mornings. They paint, do odd jobs, and help with handyman work. This is a lay ministry in our Diocese.”

“We need to meet people in their communities with the issues that they are facing. What is the Church doing to address poverty in the inner city? What are we doing to build a path forward for young people who have no training, educational or job opportunities. What are we doing to reach out to minority youth who are at risk in our local communities?”


The Synodal process has given fresh impetus to continue the work of renewal in the Diocese of Alexandria. The lay faithful who participated in the Synodal process and listening sessions gave a rich witness to their love of the faith and their local parishes. They expressed their love for the sacramental life of the Church as well as their love and appreciation for the clergy who serve them, both priests and deacons.

Bishop Robert W. Marshall, Jr., will continue to review the major themes surfaced in this Synodal process to determine how the Diocese of Alexandria can better serve the People of God in our region. He has already noted the need for additional attention to the liturgical celebrations – which will be a focus in the Diocese during the National Eucharistic Revival begun on Corpus Christi of this year and continuing through 2025. This will assist the Bishop in the realm of pastoral planning as the People of God in Central Louisiana look forward to the National Eucharistic Revival which will last from 2022 until 2025. As the Eucharist forms the “source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium n. 11), a renewal of our “full, conscious and active participation” (Sacrosanctum Concilium n. 14) in the liturgy unites all the faithful and confirms our love for the Church. This empowers all of the faithful for the task of the new evangelization. As Pope Francis has stated that “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.” (Evangelii Gaudium n. 120).

Hearing the need for more opportunities for faith formation at all levels, the Diocese is in the process of hiring a Director of Religious Education and Faith Formation. It will be the task of that office to support the work of parishes in their faith formation efforts and to encourage smaller communities to collaborate to make additional opportunities available. This office will also work toward educational programs for those interested in the Ministry of Catechist.

The desire for additional charitable involvement in the larger community will be a primary task of Catholic Charities of Central Louisiana, Inc., a newly re-established outreach of the Diocese and a partner with Catholic Charities USA. This new initiative will work to meet the needs of many in the thirteen civil parishes that comprise the Diocese.

As Bishop Marshall works with the Presbyteral Council, the Diocesan Finance Council and the many groups and ministries of the Diocese in the area of Pastoral Planning, the insights gained in this Synodal process will prove invaluable.

We, therefore, conclude the Diocesan phase of the Synodal process and lift our hearts in prayer for our Holy Father Pope Francis as he and the Bishops of the world reflect upon the results of the global Synod.

Diocesan Synod Commission
Diocesan Contact Person – Fr. Peter Faulk, JCD
President – Robert Williams Jr.
Fr. John Brocato
Mr. and Mrs. John McDaniel
Anna Martinez
Mr. and Mrs. Luke Difulco
Monique Metoyer
Claire Lemoine
Fernando Martinez Jr.
Deacon Richard Mitchell
Dr. Mark Guidry
Melanie Bolton
Chris Chelette
Bruce Fairbanks
Gabie Carpenter
Nick Carter
Sharon Carter
Anne Oestriecher
Deacon Steven Newbury
Sullivan Sykes
Audrey Carter
Jessica Despino
Robin Cooper