WINNIPEG — The faithful of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg continue to forge ahead, laying the groundwork for the local church for the years ahead as the Synod of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg resumes its general sessions.
At session one in November, the 200 delegates considered proposals dealing with vocations and leadership, marriage and family, catechesis and faith formation, social outreach, and church governance. At session two in December, the topics included indigenous people, new evangelization and missionary outreach, sacramental preparation, prayer and devotional life, and youth and young adults.
Those nine categories of concern were created based on the findings of listening sessions convened across the archdiocese from September to December, 2016. Nine focus commissions developed proposals on how to respond to the concerns and hopes raised in the listening sessions. Each commission produced a White Paper and proposals to be dealt with at the first two general sessions. Each White Paper can be read in its entirety in the Synod 2016-2018 section of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg website, www.archwinnipeg.ca.
All general sessions, six in total held monthly November through April, convene at St. John XXIII Church in west Winnipeg, a venue that can accommodate such a gathering and is most convenient for rural-based delegates.
Delegates to the general sessions are composed of elected members, as well as ex officio members (those who hold a certain office or position in the archdiocese) and appointed members. Elected members include one priest from each of the six deaneries; two non-ordained members from parishes with more than 50 families; one non-ordained member of every parish or mission with less than 50 families; four female religious; two male religious; and three permanent deacons.
Session three on Jan. 20 began the process of reviewing and finalizing amendments and new proposals resulting from the initial discussions. For example, an amendment to a proposal under vocations and leadership suggests, “Clergy recognize and assume a vital role in forming and equipping the people they serve. In order to effectively fulfil this responsibility, they be provided with appropriate education and formation.”
In a recent message to the faithful, Archbishop Richard Gagnon likened the synodal process to a pilgrimage, such as he experienced on the journey to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, a trek that may take five to six weeks on foot to complete. It is also known simply as El Camino — the Way.
“Such a spiritual experience as El Camino is not unlike the synodal journey of our local church,” writes the archbishop. “Yes it is true, there is a goal to shoot for, namely the great shrine of Santiago de Compostela, but any spiritual reward that comes with the successful completion of El Camino is certainly connected with the daily spiritual experience of walking, one step in front of another, all day long, 25 to 30 kilometres per day. Some days you are walking with your group and enjoying laughter and song through the beautiful Basque country of northern Spain; other times you are walking alone, lost in your thoughts and reflecting on your life; yet at other times you find yourself walking with strangers, travellers of different backgrounds from you and even different reasons for travelling El Camino. All the while you are keeping your eyes open for the flechas . . . those little yellow arrows that are found on stones and trees, all pointing out the right way to the Apostle James.
“Those flechas are much like the Holy Spirit, sometimes not noticeable or sometimes overlooked by us who become preoccupied with other things. But without flechas we could never find our way. And sometimes an unexpected person will enter our lives and offer good advice to help us find the flechas again.
“To walk together on a spiritual journey is a beautiful thing, sometimes hard, sometimes frustrating and yet at other times, changes occur within us, teaching us to think about the higher things as St. Paul would often say. And when we reach our goal, we have already experienced spiritual blessings along the way. We then celebrate in thanksgiving for a journey well done. Then we go home to our houses and parishes to live what we have learned on El Camino. How like the synod all this is and how beautiful and important those flechas really are.”