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Winnipeg synod will ask fundamental questions

By James Buchok


WINNIPEG — With the conclusion of its Jubilee Centennial Year, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg is embarking on its next long-term initiatives, namely, the archdiocese’s first synod, and a review and revitalization of its Stewardship Office and annual appeal known as Sharing God’s Gifts.

“Pope Francis has asked that the church become a synodal church and this is very timely for us because the Archdiocese of Winnipeg has never held a synod and now that we have celebrated our 100th anniversary it is a good time to begin this process in the local church,” said Archbishop Richard Gagnon.

The archbishop explained that synod is a Greek word meaning “to walk together. It will be an assembly of the archdiocese, to listen to each other, to learn from each other. To take our baptismal responsibilities in the church in listening to and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.”

The synod process will be undertaken over a two-year time frame, beginning in the spring of 2016, and will determine future directions for the Archdiocese of Winnipeg. It will involve a wide spectrum of people, including clergy and religious, “and a good number of lay people who will come together to hear and listen to different points of view that will help frame archdiocesan direction for years to come,” the archbishop said.

An archdiocesan Office of the Synod will be created that will guide the synodal process. Focus groups will be gathered throughout the archdiocese in large listening sessions with a variety of people, “to hear what they have to say,” the archbishop said. “Much of the work of the synod will be decentralized in the archdiocese.”

Gagnon said discussions will revolve around central themes in the same way former Archbishop James Weisgerber’s 10-Year Pastoral Plan, which concluded in October 2014, had four basic pillars.

“The synod will ask fundamental questions in order to determine future directions,” the archbishop said.

At the synod’s conclusion there will be a series of large public gatherings in which future directions will be finalized. Then the archbishop will promulgate the various initiatives and proposals that come out of the synod that will frame the way the Archdiocese of Winnipeg operates going forward.

Gagnon is now in the process of putting together an archdiocesan synod office and calling together members of a synod commission. “I am looking for people to take leadership,” he said.

The formal opening of the synod will take place with a liturgy at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg has begun a review of its Stewardship Office and its annual appeal, Sharing God’s Gifts, with the creation of a steering committee that is examining the forms the office and appeal have taken since their inception in the late 1990s.

The archdiocese has engaged the services of a consultant specializing in diocesan transformation. Focus group meetings have been held over the last few months at St. Dominic’s Church in Neepawa, and at St. Anthony of Padua Church (West Kildonan), in Winnipeg.

Gagnon said the gatherings have produced positive engagement, with the participation of a wide cross section of people, both laity and clergy. Many who have been part of the focus groups have expressed appreciation for the opportunity to be consulted. There has been some confusion around the appeal and parish assessment and people are suggesting a need for a clearer, simpler formula.

Though there have been many questions and concerns over the function and goals of the appeal and the stewardship office over the last 15 years, there is acknowledgment that in many ways Sharing God’s Gifts and the Stewardship Office have served the archdiocese well.

It is Gagnon’s belief that, as we complete our Centennial Year, “now is the time to examine how the appeal and the stewardship office can be made stronger.”

The purposes of the review are to:

- Create a simpler and clearer formula for the Sharing God’s Gifts Appeal target for each parish and mission that pastors and parishioners can understand and agree is fair;

- Provide ongoing information, education and formation from archdiocesan leadership with respect to community life and how the archdiocesan operations and pastoral needs are funded;

- Discuss and decide upon ways of integrating the Stewardship Office and process with the appeal process; and

- Foster laity and clergy ownership and active support for the stewardship and appeal efforts and process.

An initial consultant’s report is expected by the end of January.

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