VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNS) — Barbara Dowding, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, says there’s good reason for excitement about the 2023 Synod of Bishops on synodality.
For starters, Pope Francis has made it clear he wants to hear from everyone.
“The instructions that came from Rome are wide. They want us to ask everybody. They want everybody to have their say,” Dowding told The B.C. Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
“The document is very much Pope Francis: listening, reaching out to people who aren’t included.”
Dowding is one of five Canadians traveling to Rome for the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops with Pope Francis Oct. 10. The others are Bishop Raymond Poisson of Mont-Laurier, Quebec, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg, Manitoba, past president of the CCCB; Sister Chantal Desmarais, a Sister of Charity of St. Mary from Montreal; and theological adviser Patrick Fletcher.
Synods can be catalysts for change in the church. During the 1998 to 2006 Vancouver synod, delegates voted for 50 propositions that allowed the local church to move forward in a variety of areas. Without that process, the Archdiocese of Vancouver would lack some developments it now takes for granted, such as permanent deacons, adult faith formation programs, and parish-led perpetual adoration, Dowding said.
“It culminated in lots of good things, and the fruits are still coming forward,” said Dowding. “Change can happen.”
Pope Francis has invited the global church to ask questions on various topics such as reaching out to the socially excluded, integrating the contributions of consecrated people, and promoting active participation of lay people in liturgy. The findings will then be forwarded to him.
Each of the world’s bishops is to open the synod process in his diocese Oct. 17. A summary from each diocese will be forwarded to each national bishops’ conference, which will summarize them and send them on to Rome by late April.
Dowding admits there’s a temptation to ask, “What will my little opinion matter in the world?” But the local feedback can make a big difference in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, since Archbishop J. Michael Miller will be listening to it all, she said.
“The archbishop is going to listen, be aware and see trends,” she said. “In every category, there is something that the archbishop would like to know what people think. For instance, about participation in the liturgy. Given that we’ve had ‘Make Every Sunday Matter’ as a priority for a long time, has it made a difference? It would be interesting to hear what people think.”
The synod also will be an opportunity to get to know others and be strengthened spiritually, since Pope Francis has suggested local meetings incorporate spiritual aspects, such as prayer and Scripture, as well as a meal.
“It’s not just a bunch of people getting together and talking for the sake of talking,” Dowding said. “That’s the idea: to have your say, but also to be around the table and listen to what other people have to say.”