In a letter to local Catholics, Cardinal Donald Wuerl has announced that he will convoke a synod of the Archdiocese of Washington in 2014. He said the archdiocese's 75th anniversary year provides a special opportunity to examine the work of the local church and plan for its future.

"It seems appropriate to mark this historic moment in the life of our local Church with an archdiocesan synod," he said in the Aug. 15 letter.

Cardinal Wuerl said that the wider context of the synod is the call for the New Evangelization unfolding throughout the Catholic Church, in which Catholics have been encouraged to deepen their faith and share it with others. He noted that this fall, Pope Benedict XVI will inititate a "Year of Faith," a time for Catholics to reflect on their faith and seek to live it out more fully.

The archdiocese's upcoming 75th anniversary, the call for the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith "support the idea this is a providential moment" for an archdiocesan synod, Cardinal Wuerl said.

The cardinal said the approximately 250 synod members would include priests, religious and lay people from throughout the archdiocese. The cardinal will convene the synod on Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2014.

Before the synod, the faithful will have the opportunity to offer input by participating in parish and deanery gatherings and through a synod website. Web, print, audio and video teaching materials related to the synod will be launched this October. Teaching and listening sessions for the synod will be held from October 2012 until May 2013 in both English and Spanish.

"An archdiocesan synod gives the Christian faithful an opportunity to participate in the work of our local Church as we review its mission in manifesting the kingdom of God here in our community," the cardinal noted. "...Our archdiocesan synod will provide us an opportunity then to look at the life of the local Church, to evaluate where the ministry of the Church is successful and the areas where there may be need for more attention so that we can better prepare ourselves to carry forward the work of the Church into the future."

Cardinal Wuerl noted that the frame of reference for the reflections and discussions within the synod gatherings will be the five areas of Church life referred to as the "Indicators of Vitality:" worship, education, community service, and administration/stewardship.

Washington Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout, who will chair the synod's General Preparatory Commission, said in an interview that the input gathered from the faithful will help provide pastoral direction for the future work of the Church in the Archdiocese of Washington.

"The archdiocesan synod, convened in the context of the call the New Evangelization, is an opportunity for this local Church to renew our faith and to be encouraged in it, so that, with this confidence, we can effectively share it with others. The synod will give us a chance to reflect on the ways we, as the Church of Washington, are living and spreading the faith effectively as well as reflect on the ways we could do this better," he said.

Bishop Knestout, who also serves as the archdiocese's vicar general and moderator of the Curia, said, "The goal of the archdiocesan synod is to help the Church of Washington to be the best Church that Christ calls us to be."