WINNIPEG — Archbishop of Winnipeg Richard Gagnon has called a synod for the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, the first in its history, to commence on Pentecost Sunday, May 15.
In his pastoral letter announcing the synod, Gagnon writes that with the archdiocese having celebrated its centennial in 2015, “There is a vital need to plan for the future together and determine new pastoral directions for our faith community.”
The archbishop explains that according to canon law the purpose of a diocesan synod is “to foster the good of the entire diocesan community by calling together the clergy, religious and laity of the local church to deliberate on the pastoral needs of the diocese.
“Of all the institutions found in the church to provide better governance, the diocesan synod is foremost. In a diocesan synod, which lasts several years, the bishop exercises his office of governing the church entrusted to his care. Through a consultative process, he determines the themes, questions and priorities to be discussed.
“In Canon Law we further learn that all those who participate in the synod, assist the bishop by freely and sincerely expressing their opinions relative to the questions under consideration. At the end of the process, the bishop determines which of the recommendations made by the synod will be accepted and promulgated in the diocese.”
The archbishop writes that Pope Francis describes a diocesan synod as “a truly wonderful experience where people walk and journey through history together with Our Lord who walks among us. We do not walk alone.”
“At its core, a diocesan synod is an exercise of the bishop’s ministry of governance of the local church and an exercise of communion among the People of God,” writes Gagnon. “Let us remember that the People of God are not just a collection of disciples, but rather they are a priestly community established by Christ and led by the bishop who is the foundation of unity within the local church. Pope Francis has said that the church must become a more synodal church where we not only walk together but we talk together. He poses questions such as: ‘How does our diocese walk? Does it walk together? And what am I doing so that it may truly walk in unity?’ ”
According to the archbishop, the synod will consist of several phases. The preparatory phase will commence on Pentecost Sunday, May 15, and consist of a variety of opportunities for the voice of the local church to be heard over a one-year period. This will be followed by the formal synod sessions from May 2017 to November 2017. Finally, there will be an implementation stage ending with the formal closing of the synod on Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018. Further details on the synod process will be released in an upcoming pastoral letter.
At the end of the synod, a Synod Declaration will be published, an episcopal letter summing up the synod process including what has been learned and a listing of recommendations and pastoral priorities for the archdiocese and parishes.
“It is hoped that the synod will also assist in the framing of archdiocesan statutes where necessary. In addition, the synod produces guidelines and resources for the effective implementation of the synod at all levels,” writes the archbishop.
Gagnon says Pope Francis “reminds us that we must walk in unity, without running ahead and without nostalgia for the past. Our synod, and the sessions leading up to it during the preparatory stage, will be wonderful and spirit-filled events which will help us to plan our course as we walk into our second century as an archdiocese.
“We begin our synod during this Holy Year of Mercy,” Gagnon writes. “The Holy Father is inviting us to open our hearts so as to experience the closeness of the Father of mercy and to practice mercy toward others. This same generous openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit will be required of all of us as we launch our synod! I ask for your prayers as we prepare for the opening of our archdiocesan synod. I look forward to a full and active participation in this first synod for the Archdiocese of Winnipeg.”