In what may be a first for transparency in the Canadian Catholic Church, St. Boniface Archbishop Albert LeGatt has publicly released a 108-page report on the state of his bilingual diocese in Manitoba.
LeGatt’s report was written in response to questions posed by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops in advance of the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops’ ad limina visit to Rome March 25 - April 2.
Reports by bishops covering everything from basic statistics (Catholic population, annual baptisms, marriages) to the challenges and prospects for the future of the church are used to inform and guide meetings between bishops and Vatican officials during their once-every-five-year visits to Rome.
While these reports have typically been shared only with the Vatican, there’s nothing secret about them, said LeGatt.
“It just came to me that this is, in terms of communication, a very complete reflection of where the diocese is,” LeGatt told The Catholic Register. “Since that’s what we’re trying to communicate all the time with our faithful and our priests, why not use this? We need to report to the Congregation for Bishops and to the Holy Father. But to report is really to reflect what the state of the church is here. Why not do that for the faithful?”
LeGatt posted French and English versions of his report to the Vatican on the archdiocesean website about two weeks before his visit to Rome with the other Western Canadian bishops. In the six months since then he’s had phone calls and letters from some of the more engaged members of his church, thanking him for the bird’s-eye view of bilingual Catholicism in Winnipeg and the surrounding farm country.
“These would be people who are more intimately involved with the life of the church,” said LeGatt.
While there are no other examples of Canadian bishops giving their faithful the same document they gave to the Vatican, other bishops did report back to their people on their experience in Rome. Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini posted videos of himself made in Rome. Gatineau Archbishop Paul André Durocher blogged about his experience in French. The Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops posted a summary of their week in Rome and the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops posted a 1,400-word summary along with a photo diary on their website.
“Sharing the ad limina report is inviting the faithful of the diocese into a sense of what the church at this time, in this place, is called to be — which is evangelizing,” said LeGatt.
It’s the technology that makes this level of sharing possible, the archbishop said.
“Would I have printed 10,000 copies of a 120-page report? Of course not. But since we have the website — it’s free, it’s easily accessible. The means are there. Why not use the means at our disposal for the advancing of the life of the church and the kingdom of God?” LeGatt said.
Throughout his report, LeGatt emphasizes the search for new and better ways for ordinary Catholics to share their faith both with each other and with friends and neighbours outside the church. From Catholic Christian Outreach’s efforts on university campuses to Alpha programs in parishes, LeGatt is encouraged whenever Catholics sit down, share a meal and talk about their faith.
“All those efforts to bring people together, to hear the Word of God, to hear the teaching of the church, to connect it to their own lives by sharing it with other people — that’s how the faith is transmitted and received in our day,” he said.