WINNIPEG — It’s not every day that youth get an opportunity to partake in a synod, but on Oct. 25 Winnipeg high school students from St. Mary’s Academy, St. Paul’s High School and St. Maurice School were invited by Archbishop Richard Gagnon to gather together.
The event was a listening session, one of eight scheduled over the past two months forming the first phase of the two-year Archdiocese of Winnipeg synod, the first in its history.
Synod, from the Greek word, synodos, means “assembly.” The purpose of an archdiocesan synod is to foster the good of the community as a whole by calling together the clergy, religious and laity of the church to discuss the pastoral needs of the archdiocese. It is to come together, to walk together, and to go forward on a path.
As disciples of God, it is our responsibility to be active members of the church. The synod is a great opportunity for youth to voice their opinions on what they feel the archdiocese needs. The synod acknowledges that as young members of the church, we have valid points and perspectives, and that our voices will be heard among the adult members of the archdiocese.
For students from St. Maurice School, it was also great to meet people from other schools and religious backgrounds and discuss topics that concern the archdiocese.
Students were seated randomly so that they could meet other students and share their perspectives on the church. Prior to the listening session, the archdiocese proposed three questions to the participating schools. These questions were thoroughly discussed in religion classes, so those who were not physically present were also able to voice their opinions.
The session began with a presentation by Keith Macpherson, an alumnus of St. Paul’s High School. His interactive musical performance as well as positive attitude really set the mood for the rest of the day, encouraging the youth not only to be honest and not be afraid to speak their minds, but to realize and appreciate that they have been given an opportunity of a lifetime. The questions that were posed in the religion classes were brought to the tables, and were discussed among the students in small groups.
The three questions asked were: What do you appreciate most about the church, especially those things that have changed you as a disciple of the Lord? What do you personally need/want from the church? How do you think the church can more effectively engage youth going forward?
Students noticed a common need in involving youth in parishes in various ways. They collectively wish to see an archdiocese that involves more modern views in order to engage them and make it easier for them to learn more about their faith. They need more leadership roles for youth to play in the community, and they also need to find a balance between keeping tradition and allowing for change.
With the archbishop present and listening, students were reassured that their opinions were being addressed.