STUDY DAYS — Lay, religious and ordained leaders from 45 parishes across the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas discussed priorities during Study Days held Sept. 8-12 in Saskatoon. Archbishop Murray Chatlain holds the microphone during a sharing session. (Yaworski photo)

Keewatin-Le Pas Study Days held

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski

SASKATOON — Lay, religious and ordained leaders travelled from 45 parishes across the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas, to pray, reflect and discern pastoral initiatives for the future together.

Enculturation and empowering the laity — especially youth — were among priorities identified during the archdiocesan Study Days gathering Sept. 8 - 12 at Queen’s House in Saskatoon.

“We have a group sense of what next steps to take,” said Archbishop Murray Chatlain. “Now it is up to each of us in prayer to start making those little steps.

Hope was the theme of the gathering, which included inspirational talks, working sessions, and discernment about priorities.

Chatlain was appointed 18 months ago as shepherd of the missionary archdiocese, which covers 430,000 square kilometres in northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba and a small corner of North-West Ontario.

The archdiocese recently completed a four-year theme of Returning to Our Roots, concentrating upon Scripture, eucharist, community and prayer, noted the archbishop.

“During these Study Days we have been asking what do we focus on for the next few years,” said Chatlain. “I am hoping that we are guided by the Spirit giving us a couple of areas to focus on together; we are hoping that we will identify the areas that God wants us to focus upon.”

Chatlain said he greatly appreciates the chance to gather with pastoral leaders from across his archdiocese. “I really like the balance of the group — I appreciate that we have many voices, including those from the Cree, Oji-Cree and Dene communities; men and women; local priests and international priests,” he said. “There is a variety of voices and a variety of experience coming together.”

Chatlain added, “There is also a sense and a hope that the wisdom of the group and the gifts of the group will stretch out to touch the broader archdiocese.”

Priorities identified in the creative brainstorming and discernment process of Study Days included a range of pastoral concerns, such as empowering lay people, a need for adult faith formation, creating effective youth ministry, reaching out to the marginalized, a need to enculturate liturgy, and an ongoing need for healing and reconciliation.

Study Days began on the evening of Sept. 8 with celebration of the eucharist and an opening talk by Chatlain. Then keynote speaker Archbishop Emeritus James Weisgerber spoke Sept. 9, focusing on a theme of hope.

“Archbishop Weisgerber spoke about hope as expectation,” said Chatlain. “Hope is not just wishing. It is that active expectation: it is expecting that we are pregnant and the child is coming. So with that kind of active expectation, there is an energy and a confidence around our gathering, and where we are going next.”

Sessions on Sept. 10 included a presentation by Armella Sonntag, Saskatchewan and Keewatin-Le Pas animator for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

Facilitator Randy Robinson led the active discernment process over three days of the gathering, helping participants to envision and articulate the kind of archdiocese they hoped for — and ways to achieve that vision.

“They were asked to explore that notion of being a life-giving diocese, what that means, and how to make that happen,” Robinson said of the process, which included an appreciative inquiry into what is presently going well and then a process of identifying what constitutes a life-giving faith community.

“We discussed it in terms of what headlines they would want to see in two years — showing how we would want the church to be life-giving.” Headlines created in the process focused on inclusion, welcome, joy, evangelization and healing.

Participants put their vision into both words and images, working with art materials and symbols to help to envision a future church, Robinson described. Leaders then spent time in small groups, engaging in discussion about their vision and possible practical priorities.

Study Days included prayer and worship throughout the week, and social time, including a games night, and a farewell dinner for archdiocesan employees Sister Bernadine Fetter and Don Maksymchuk.

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