WINNIPEG — The Synod of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, the first in its 100-year history, has reached the midway point with last fall’s Listening Sessions leading to last spring’s Focus Commissions and the preparation of white papers containing proposals to be put to the delegates of the upcoming Synod General Sessions.
In September, the 200 delegates to the General Sessions attended one of three orientation gatherings to learn how the sessions will work and what their roles will be.
“You’re a very important person,” said Archbishop Richard Gagnon to 100 of the delegates at an orientation session at St. Anthony of Padua Church (West Kildonan) in Winnipeg Sept. 21. “You have been appointed a delegate to the synod and this is a key component in the work of the Holy Spirit. The synod itself is what you are about. You represent your parish communities and groups such as the Catholic Women’s League and the Knights of Columbus and youth, and you are part of the synod process.”
Two previous orientation sessions were held at St. Augustine’s Church in Brandon Sept. 15 and St. Viator’s Church in Dauphin Sept. 16.
The Archdiocese of Winnipeg director of Pastoral Services Ted Wood said the word synod means “to come together, to walk together, to go forward upon a path,” adding that Pope Francis calls us to be a more “synodal church.” He said a synod is not very common among Canadian dioceses.
“We entered into this as an act of faith,” Gagnon said. “We had to craft it for our own particular diocese.” He called the synod process, “an action of the Holy Spirit.”
The delegates to the General Sessions are elected members, ex officio members (those who hold a certain office or position in the archdiocese) and those appointed at the archbishop’s choosing.
Elected members include one priest from each of the six deaneries; two representatives from every parish with more than 50 families; one representative from every parish with fewer than 50 families; four female religious and two male religious; and three permanent deacons.
The archbishop spoke of the 14 Listening Sessions held across the archdiocese that attracted 900 people. “The People of God spoke as to how they see the local church, what our priorities should be and where it’s going. What is the Holy Spirit saying to the church, to you as an instrument of God? It requires silence, patience and listening. It’s not about us; it’s about our whole local church.”
At the Listening Sessions all were invited to speak directly to the archbishop and respond to three questions: What do you appreciate about your church? What is your vision for your archdiocese? What should be your church’s priorities? Those responses led to the formation of nine main topics and the creation of Focus Commissions to study those topics. The members of the Focus Commissions were selected by Gagnon in consultation with a three-person Synod Secretariat.
The Focus Commissions studied: New Evangelization and Missionary Outreach; Catechetics and Faith Development; Indigenous People; Youth and Young Adults; Marriage and Family; Sacramental Preparation, Prayer and Devotional Life; Vocations and Leadership; Church Governance; and Social Outreach. The Focus Commissions produced white papers that will lead to proposals to be studied and voted on at the Synod General Sessions, which initiate the formal part of the synod. The white papers can be read in their entirety on the Archdiocese of Winnipeg website, in the Synod 2016 - 2018 section: www.archwinnipeg.ca/.
The General Sessions open with mass on Nov. 3 at St. John XXIII Church, followed the next day with the first of six General Sessions. The sessions will be held once a month until April, alternating between John XXIII and St. Paul the Apostle Church, chosen for the size of their facilities and easy access for those coming from rural points.