The following comes from a Southern Cross article by Aida Bustos:

SAN DIEGO — “Think big.”

That’s what Bishop Robert W. McElroy urged parish delegates to do leading up to the first general assembly in the diocese in 40 years.

This assembly, called a diocesan synod, will be held on Oct. 29 and 30. Its focus will be on how the San Diego Diocese and its individual parishes can strengthen marriage and families, give pastoral support to divorced Catholics and invite unmarried couples into the fold, all challenges faced by the Church.

The seed for the synod was planted by Pope Francis earlier this year. In his teaching document Amoris Laetitia (“Joy of Love”), the pope invited dioceses around the world to reflect on the state of families in their region and to find ways to strengthen them.

After consultations with the priestly leadership, deacons and lay leaders, Bishop McElroy announced in May that the Diocese of San Diego would hold a synod to do just that. In fact, it’s the only diocese in the country known to be holding one in response to the pope’s call.

The San Diego synod is being led by Father John Hurley, a nationally-known Catholic leader on fostering change at the diocesan level, and advised by theologians, including a former Vatican official who attended last year’s Synod of Bishops on family life convened by the pope.

Father Hurley encouraged the delegates to think “outside the box” and to develop goals that are relevant, achievable and measurable.

The five challenges are:
• Witnessing the beauty and realism of the Catholic vision of marriage and family life;
•Bringing spiritual depth to family life;
•Nurturing and forming children in the light of Catholic faith;
•Providing authentic pastoral support for those who are divorced;
• Forming a Church culture of invitation and hospitality to unmarried couples.

A theologian is an integral part of each meeting of the working groups. Bernadeane Carr, STL, director of the Diocesan Institute, was selected for the initial meeting on Aug. 20.

The other theologians are Msgr. Daniel Dillabough, vice president of Mission and Ministry, Dr. Emily Reimer-Barry, chair of Theology and Religious Studies, Sister Tobie Tondi, SHCJ, professor, all at the University of San Diego; Dr. Maureen Day, professor at the Franciscan School of Theology in Oceanside; and Father Michael Murphy from Sacred Heart Parish in Coronado.

At the general assembly, the theologian will be Msgr. John Strynkowski, who worked at the Vatican for eight years and served as executive director of Doctrine and Pastoral Practices for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He attended the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family in 2015 as the theological adviser for Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich.