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Listening Sessions analyzed in Winnipeg synod

By James Buchok


WINNIPEG — The people of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg find their churches welcoming, but they thirst for an increased commitment to evangelization, faith formation, youth ministry and social justice, says a report based on the 13 Listening Sessions that opened the ongoing two-year archdiocesan synod.

The Synod of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, the first in its history, began last fall with the Listening Sessions held across the archdiocese attracting nearly 800 people. Other respondents were able to submit their thoughts online using the archdiocesan website.

The report is an analysis of all written and spoken submissions gathered at the sessions and was compiled by Catholic Leadership Institute, a Pennsylvania-based group helping to guide the synod process.

The Archdiocese of Winnipeg, erected in 1915, stretches far beyond Winnipeg: west from Lake Winnipeg and the Red River to Saskatchewan, south to the U.S. border and north to Barrows, Man., 600 kilometres north of Winnipeg, covering 116,000 square miles. It is home to an estimated 155,000 Catholics.

The archdiocese’s commitment to diversity and welcoming of immigrants and refugees was a major theme among those who mentioned the welcoming atmosphere of churches.

Looking to the future, participants envisioned a dedication to interfaith dialogue, reaching out to inactive Catholics, and an “open-door” policy with an emphasis on mercy. Creating a vibrant encounter has been suggested to bring people back to the church. Throughout every session, but especially among youth and young adults, there were individuals who emphasized the need for understanding and dialogue with the LGBT community.

The people of the archdiocese want more education and faith formation for all ages, with more opportunities for retreats, speakers, and classes. A greater offering of youth and young adult programs was also a major emphasis across all Listening Sessions.

The people of the archdiocese seek to emulate the call of Pope Francis in living out their faith through mercy and good works. Respondents seek to continue reconciliation efforts with First Nations, to assist refugees, and to offer more in the local community to help the poor.

The synod process now moves to Focus Commissions — nine groups of from six to eight people that will discuss and discern what the faithful of the archdiocese have said at the Listening Sessions, and the goals to be pursued.

The Focus Commission topics are: New Evangelization and Missionary Outreach; Catechetics and Faith Formation; First Nations; Youth and Young Adults; Marriage and Family Life; Sacramental Preparation, Prayer and Devotional Life; Vocations and Leadership; Church Governance; and Social Outreach.

The Focus Commissions’ task will be to answer the question, “How could we as an archdiocese address the concerns and hopes raised in the Listening Sessions?” The recommendations that are put forth by the Focus Commissions are to be “doable” actions that can be accomplished now and will have an impact in the near future.

The final report of each Focus Commission will be two or three pages long and include an opening vision statement that reflects the hopes and concerns raised in the Listening Sessions, related theological reflection and a list of three to five recommendations which will lead to the next synod phase, the Synod General Session, which will establish more concrete and specific actions.

The Focus Commissions will meet from February to April and will produce first drafts of white papers by May 1 to be circulated throughout the archdiocese for review and comment. The final draft of white papers will be completed in June to be presented to the Synod General Session in fall 2017.

The full 10-page report on the Listening Sessions from Catholic Leadership Institute can be found on the Archdiocese of Winnipeg website.

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