WINIPEG — The faithful spoke and Archbishop Richard Gagnon listened as the synod for the Archdiocese of Winnipeg held the first in a series of listening sessions to address three questions: What do you appreciate about your church? What is your vision for your archdiocese? What should be your church’s priorities?
Among the positives were expressions of a church that celebrates ethnic diversity and collaboration. Among the challenges is the need for the church to reach outside itself, beyond its structures, to a commitment to build a just society through Gospel values.
There was much more said and heard at the 90-minute session at St. Paul’s High School Sept. 8, and there is much more to come at the nine additional listening sessions scheduled throughout the archdiocese from now until Nov. 5.
All are invited to express their opinion, including the baptized who are no longer active in the church and also, in the words of Gagnon, “those who do not know Jesus Christ.”
The sessions begin with a few minutes of silence to reflect on the three questions and, if one chooses, to write brief responses on forms that are provided. The next 15 minutes are spent in group discussions, followed by the main part of the gathering, when all are invited to voice their feelings directly to Gagnon. The archbishop listens — and only listens — while others record what is said.
The spoken and written responses from the 10 sessions will lead to the next part of the synod, the Focus Commissions, which will identify main themes that emerge from the Listening Sessions and create reports to become working documents for the synod general sessions. The entire two-year synod plan can be seen in a slideshow on the Archdiocese of Winnipeg website; those who cannot attend a Listening Session can go to the website and respond online.
“The synod is like a funnel,” said Gagnon. “It’s wide on top, to hear what is in your hearts, and the thoughts are discerned downward to more specific initiatives and goals.” The archbishop admitted it is a bit overwhelming. “Who’s going to do all this?” he asked jokingly, then answered, “We are.”
“I kept thinking this is a holy moment,” Gagnon said. “It is a holy thing to express those thoughts that we have. I looked at each of your offerings as little gems of faith.”
Other Listening Sessions took place Sept. 13 at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Winnipeg, and Sept. 14 at St. Augustine’s Parish, Brandon. Listening sessions are also scheduled for Oct. 8, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, Winnipeg; Oct. 13, 7 p.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Winnipeg; Oct. 15, 1 p.m. at St. Viator’s Parish, Dauphin; Oct. 18, at 10 a.m. at Waywayseecappo First Nation; Oct. 19, 7 p.m. at St. Paul the Apostle Parish, Winnipeg; with youth and young adults, 9:30 a.m. Oct. 22 at St. Peter’s Parish, Winnipeg; and Nov. 5, 10 a.m. at Christ the King Parish, Stonewall.
A session will also be held at Chez Nous/Our Place drop-in centre in downtown Winnipeg at a date to be determined.