WINNIPEG — Under the banner of Disciples: Established, Anointed, and Sent in Christ, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg embarked on the first synod in its 100-year history with solemn evening prayer May 15, Pentecost Sunday, at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
“We ask the Holy Spirit to guide and protect this local church over these next two years and beyond,” said Archbishop Richard Gagnon.
A Synod Office and Preparatory Commission have been established for the initial task of convening up to a dozen Listening Sessions to take place in the fall to gather thoughts and opinions from all who are a part of the archdiocese. The Listening Sessions will be followed by Focus Commissions over next winter; General Sessions from April to November 2017, and an Implementation Commission from November 2017 to April 2018. The synod will close on Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018.
Gagnon, who had been a participant in a synod in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, said the question that the Winnipeg synod is being called to answer is discipleship: “How are we to be disciples and how are we to live out our discipleship during these current and very challenging times? I have often asked myself, what would it be like if every Catholic looked at themselves as disciples of Jesus rather than as members of the church? There is a world of difference between the idea of membership and the fact of being a disciple. To be a disciple means that something radical has occurred within us due to an encounter with a living person who calls us and leads us to a responsibility and a mission. Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, his blueprint for the church today, mentions many times that the words disciple and mission go together. He speaks, rather, of missionary disciples. It is for this reason that we entitle our synod: Disciples: Established, Anointed and Sent in Christ.”
The number of Listening Sessions has yet to be finalized but will be held, for example, with the faithful in each of the six deaneries, with clergy, deacons and other religious, with Catholic Schools, with First Nations people, with youth, and with those who partake of archdiocesan outreach efforts such as Chez Nous drop-in centre in downtown Winnipeg.
Gagnon, supported by synod staff, will attend each listening session to hear what people believe is good in the archdiocese, to hear about their vision for the archdiocese, and what should be priorities. Participants will have the choice of speaking openly in a session, or providing thoughts in writing or online on the Archdiocese of Winnipeg website.
The Focus Commissions will identify main themes that emerge from the Listening Sessions, and create a report that will become the basis for the General Sessions at which delegates from all churches and communities in the archdiocese will decide the final priorities for the archdiocese.
The Implementation Commission will formulate final recommendations for Gagnon to establish policies enabling implementation of the recommendations. Full details and dates will be available soon on the Archdiocese of Winnipeg website.
“The word synod means to walk together,” Gagnon said. “As we walk together and share our experiences, we can ask ourselves: How well do we walk together? How are we doing in living out our faith today? What are the blessings that we see in our lives and what are the challenges we face? How well do we pass on the gift of faith? How do we worship together?
“A synod is an exercise in living our faith together. It is an experience of communion, of unity, of what is known as koinonia,” the archbishop said, “the communion among us that comes from our relationship with Christ. Paul reminds us of this in his Letter to the Ephesians: ‘Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force.’
“Our synod will look at our discipleship through the prism of our baptismal call to be priest, prophet and king, the threefold ministry of our Lord,” Gagnon said.
“In living our priesthood of the baptized, in being teachers and witnesses of the faith and in sharing in the shepherding of souls toward God, we are sent out into the world to be agents of God’s mercy. And we are to do this with the confidence that comes from Our Lord’s abiding presence in our lives as Paul reminds us: ‘There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and works through all, and is in all.’"