WINNIPEG — Nearly 200 delegates to the first general session of the Synod of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg gathered Nov. 4 at St. John XXIII Church on Portage Ave. to deliberate and vote on a range of proposals that will set the priorities for the archdiocese into the future.
“This is about the movement of the Spirit, it is not a political arena,” said moderator Rev. Darrin Gurr. “We are listening to where the Spirit is leading us, and all voices are important.”
A mass dedicated to the opening of the synod sessions was held the previous evening. In his homily, Archbishop Richard Gagnon reminded participants that the word “synod” means “to walk together. It means that one seeks the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all that we do; it means that we structure into our church life, opportunities for prayer and listening; opportunities for being heard; it means considering what the Spirit of God is saying to the church for the good of all. In the highly secular environment we live in, this is not easy.”
The image of the washing of the feet is the biblical motif for the synod, and in that spirit a foot-washing ritual was part of the mass with hundreds of participants washing one another’s feet.
The next day, at the first of six daylong synod general sessions to be held monthly through April, delegates were asked to vote on proposals put forth by nine Focus Commissions that had studied the outcomes of 14 Listening Sessions held throughout the archdiocese in the fall and winter of 2016 - 2017. At the Listening Sessions, 900 of the faithful shared their thoughts and visions for, and criticisms of, the local church. Those responses led to the Focus Commission reports, and from each of those came three to five proposals.
At session one, delegates considered proposals dealing with Vocations and Leadership, Marriage and Family, Catechetics and Faith Development, Social Outreach and Church Governance.
In response to the proposals, delegates could vote: a) accept as is; b) accept with an amendment; c) do not accept. Those who voted “b” or “c” were asked to communicate their reasons to the synod secretariat by email or in writing. Each delegate voted with a handheld device, with the results being posted on a large screen within minutes. Delegates could also submit their own proposals on a particular topic, by email or in writing to the synod secretariat.
“What we have been seeking to practice during our archdiocesan synod is precisely this: walking in the light of the Holy Spirit in all that we do. In all our meetings, decision-making and planning, our faith in Christ must be at the centre,” said the archbishop.
“The various stages of the synod over the past year had to be planned and structured so that the People of God could have the opportunity to enter into the spirit of the synod. So too, developing a synodal way of being church in the future requires planning, effort, and a sincere heart,” he continued in his homily.
“In the account of the washing of the feet there are two movements: being washed by the Lord, and we, in turn, wash the feet of others. Being washed by Jesus has everything to do with being established and anointed in Christ. To be made holy by God’s redemptive grace. All our pastoral endeavours, this synod, and everything else we do must be seen through the lens of holiness. We are the ‘anointed ones in Christ,’ and we are called by Christ to draw others to him, one of the key themes of the Second Vatican Council.
“In all the listening we have participated in, and in all the discernment that has occurred, there have been three general concerns in the hearts of the People of God, and these we now realize correspond to being washed by Jesus and washing the feet of others: the need to know our faith and to be formed in it; the need to pass on our faith to the next generations; and the need to reach out to those on the peripheries.”