Synod experience ‘transformative’ for Canadian priests

Canadian Delegates Fr. Fabio De Souza, Fr. Pierre Ducharme and Fr. Daniel Ouellet at the Parish Priests for the Synod International Meeting in Rome From April 28 to May 2. (Photo by Fr. Pierre Ducharme, OFM - Catholic Register, CCN)

By Quinton Admundson, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Fr. Pierre Ducharme, OFM, is “riding a high” one week after returning from the Parish Priests for the Synod international meeting in Rome.

The shepherd of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Richmond, B.C., said the over 200 clerics invited to the April 28-May 2 event at the Fraterna Domus were enthusiastic, and the positivity translated into a “transformative experience.”

“We were all happy to be there,” said Ducharme. “Even though we were very diverse, we grew together. I think that was the beauty of the process.”

Summit participants enlightened members of their group about how they experience synodality. Specifically, each priest outlined their prayer, discernment and listening practices and reviewed their methods for empowering their congregation to evangelize and serve their community.

Fr. Fabio de Souza, the pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Calgary, lauded the General Secretariat of the Synod and the Vatican’s Dicastery of the Clergy for fostering meaningful discourse between the priests who sermonizes in grand cathedrals and the clergyman who preaches in modest rural churches.

De Souza’s group boasted an Australian parish administrator who spiritually guides a small congregation of 30 and a South Korean celebrant who interprets the Gospel for thousands of Catholics each Sunday.

In de Souza’s estimation, Pope Francis delivered the most impactful call to action during his session with the attendees on the final day of the meeting. He encouraged the delegates to become “missionaries of synodality.”

“I think this concept is very important because we are invited to reproduce in our community the same spirit that we lived in the environment the Church provided for us,” said de Souza.

Such an imitation is possible by unleashing the spiritual gifts of the laity and restoring communal discernment, said de Souza.

Fr. Daniel Ouellet, the priest-moderator of 22 parishes in Quebec’s Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière diocese stated via email that “discernment is an integral part of the synodal process,” and declared “it is not banal.”

Ouellet added that “this discernment must not be done alone but rather in solidarity with all the baptized engaged in various parish ministries and functions.”

Ducharme said he “was touched” that the need “to support the laity in their charisms and to share in the mission of the Church as co-responsible members” was clearly conveyed within the April 29, 30 and May 1 working group reports.”

Notably, the April 30 report stressed that “priests must gather together regularly for prayer and mutual support,” and that “bishops must make care for their priests a priority so that they can care for their people.”

Ducharme, de Souza and Ouellet are keen to forge fraternal bonds with fellow Canadian Catholic pastors. The three men entered the international meeting as relative strangers, and five days later they exited as friends.

They are currently collaborating on a report for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) containing their observations from the assembly and their advice for creating a “synodal parish.”

The trio also conferenced with the other two Canadians invited to the meeting. Fr. Raymond Lafontaine of the Montreal archdiocese facilitated discussions. Fr. Gilles Routhier, a theologian and superior general of the Seminary of Quebec, was on hand as an expert voice. This spiritual quintet already has a notion on how to put what they learned from the meeting into action.

“One of the things we would like to do is gather priests from across Canada in discernment,” said Ducharme. “We will speak to our conference of bishops and see what we can do together.”

RELATED: Synodal style can free pastors to focus on ministry, says Pope Francis in letter to parish priests – ARTICLE

RELATED: Pope tells parish priests: Church could not go on without you – ARTICLE

RELATED: Synthesis Report from first session of Synod of Bishops Oct. 2023 -LINK