DFW Lay Council Background, Autumn, 2006 through 2010


The impetus for what evolved as the First Dallas/Fort Worth Lay Council originated from the interest of a handful of Catholic lay men and women who were looking for an effective means of


  1. gathering with others to talk about the role of the laity in the 21st c;

  2. identifying the concerns of lay people troubled by negative events and tendencies in their Church;

  3. and presenting the result of their conversations in a way that would get the attention of diocesan leaders as well as provide an  opening for a two way conversation with Church leaders.


These individuals gathered to hear a representative of Call To Action (CTA) discuss the latter’s initiative to promote local meetings around the country to deal with the role of the laity. The CTA model was called a Lay Synod, after a successful venture in the diocese of Bellville, Illinois. This model seemed well suited to the local North Texas objectives of gathering, discerning and communicating the major issues peculiar to Catholics in the two dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth. Early on, however, there was a conscious decision to accentuate the local nature of our initiative and not call our gathering a “synod” which had strong ecclesial connotations. Also, to assure that no discussion topic would be off limits, it was decided to proceed separately from diocesan representatives who were limited in this regard. Furthermore, while we were collaborating with CTA, we did not wish to be identified as responding to someone else’s initiatives for a lay synod or council. The guidelines that emerged from our meetings in the Autumn of 2006, called for us to be as democratic and open as possible. The “Board” for the First DFW Lay Council regarded itself as temporary, and agreed to allow further initiatives to spring from the participants of the first council.



[Reproduced below is the post-event “Letter to the 75 council participants,” as an exhibit of the Board’s attempt to democratize the Lay Council initiative.}


To the 75 participants in the First DFW Lay Council:


Dear People,


Yes, finally, this is the executive summary report of our March DFW Lay Council.


Early on our Board members reached agreement to abide by as democratic a code as possible in planning and implementing a lay council. As a consequence, efficiency may cede place to other values. Thank you for your patience. This report and attachments have already been sent to the bishops of our two dioceses. A response has not been received.


The Board voted to provide a summary report that would focus on the DFW Lay Council participants’ major concerns in their experience of Church. Admittedly, the format is not adequate to capture all the conversations we had there. The complete listing of news-print comments, of major issues put forth by the table groups, and of votes cast to prioritize issues will be available to the next planning group.


One value of this executive summary has been that it highlights how strongly this assembly felt both about education within the Church, and about opening lines of honest communication within the Church without having to keep anything off the table.  The five priority issues identified will provide the starting point for whatever direction the next DFW Lay Council Board decides to take. Your interest and involvement, actually, will determine its direction.


Participants at the closing session were vigorous in their assessment that this Lay Council was good and important.  Here is where we need you to come forward, namely to form a new Board which will take responsibility for a second lay council. Please let us know your interest and availability.  There are two contacts who have agreed to facilitate this transitional step: Joe Sullivan for the Dallas area, josephrsullivan@tx.rr.com; and Ray Szempruch for the Tarrant area, ray_szempruch@sbcglobal.net.


The next order of business will be to discuss mission and goals for a follow-up lay council, to form a new Board, to select coordinators, and to form working committees.


We are looking for a site to hold preliminary meetings in early Fall. Let us know if you can volunteer a central location. Please send us your name and contact information (email or phone) if you wish to be contacted with the particulars. Early participants will decide who will serve on the Board. Not everyone cares to. If you just want to be heard and/or to be considered for a committee role on down the line, please let us know that as well. Thank you.


All one in Jesus the Risen Christ!   


 [A newly elected interim Board Chair had to withdraw for personal reasons. Ultimately, therefore, core members of the original Board and leadership of both Dallas’s Open Window community and Tarrant County’s Voices For Renewal reached consensus to plan and underwrite expenses for a second annual event. The Dallas community took the lead. This second DFW Lay Council had Paul Lakeland, as the morning Presenter and Facilitator for afternoon round table action. Theme was “Open Church for an Open Society.”


For the DFW Lay Council III, the lead for planning and hosting the event passed to Voices for Renewal. See reports in Archive. The lead alternated again in 2010 for the fourth DFW Lay Council. The Dallas community invited Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who was touring the country with his “Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling” presentation.]


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