With the Apostolic Letter “Patris corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis recalls the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father has proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” from December 8, 2020, to December 8, 2021.
In recent decades, papal statements have reminded Catholics the world over that we need to give heightened attention to the environment. On June 18, 2015, the Holy See presented the second Encyclical Letter that Pope Francis has issued since the beginning of his pontificate. Entitled “Praise be to you, my Lord” (Laudato si’), the central question posed by the Holy Father is: “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” (no. 160).
Pope Francis continues: “This question not only concerns the environment in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal.” It leads to questions about the meaning of existence and the values which should be the basis of social life: “What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?” The Holy Father adds, “Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results.”
On 19 March 2021, the fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, on the joy and beauty of familial love, Pope Francis wihas inaugurated the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family,” which will conclude on 26 June 2022 on the occasion of the World Meeting of Families in Rome. The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life will propose initiatives to accompany families in the face of contemporary challenges.
In Quebec, the law concerning end-of-life care, officially approved in December 2015, defines such end-of-life care as, on the one hand, palliative care, and on the other, medical assistance in dying. Even if the bill avoids saying the word, we must acknowledge, in the second case, that we are dealing with euthanasia: killing someone to put an end to their suffering.
The bishops of Qubec approved the proposals concerning palliative care, since those correspond to Gospel values. But they have added their voices to those of many who are opposed to proposals concerning euthanasia, since Catholic tradition has always seen an act provoking the death of a defenseless being as an assault on human dignity and the sacred dimension of life.
On February 6th, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada declared invalid the article in the Criminal Code defining euthanasia or assisted dying as a crime. Following this decision, the Government of Canada legislatee on the issue by framing this practice that, for better or for worse, is slowly spreading throughout the world. Thus, Bill C-14, an act concerning medical aid in dying, received royal sanction on June 17, 2016.
While deploring the evolution of this question, Canada's bishops, through the CCCB, have especially expressed their deep concern at the lack of protection of the freedom of conscience of health care workers, as well as the freedom of health institutions opposed to such practices, especially Catholic hospitals. They are offended that this practice might be implemented without first ensuring adequate palliative care throughout the country.
The debate surrounding these questions is particularly fierce since we don’t always agree on the vocabulary to use, or on the social consequences of normalizing a practice that originally sought to respond only to exceptional cases. (Let us think of the present trivialization of abortion that, only a few years ago, was considered only in the most dramatic cases.)
It is important, as citizens and Christians, that we truly understand this issue, the values that are at stake, and the moral tradition of our Church, so that we can better discern how to accompany our loved ones who are facing death.
Important Notice : The situation related to COVID 19 has evolved very rapidly and in light of these recent developments Archbishop Paul-André Durocher has decided to put the synodal process on hold. You will find more details about this in his pastoral letter.
The Archdiocese of Gatineau has set out on a 15-month synodal process, starting in October 2018. A synod is a time of walking together, listening to one another, and prayerfully discerning a way forward. This process will help us set out an action plan that will guide us for the coming years. It will take place in three phases, between October 2018 and December 2019, using the well-known cycle called “See-Judge-Act”.
To act appropriately, we first need to make good judgements.To make good judgements, we need to make sure that we see clearly what is before us.
Our synodal process was palnned to follow these three phases:
Autumn 2018 – a time to “see”, through an on-line questionnaire, focus groups with specific groups, and facilitated discussions in each parish. This will lead to a report that describes our current situation and identifies issues and questions.
Spring 2019 - a time to “judge”, to reflect together on these issues and questions, and to develop possible options for the future. This will lead to the publication of a document in June 2019 which outlines issues and options.
Autumn 2019 – a time to “act”, diocesan meetings will be held to discuss options for action. By Christmas 2019, we will publish the final document that will determine the priorities and actions required both at parish and diocesan levels.
Find out more in the pastoral letter of Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, Christ, Us, Our Communities, Our Neighbourhoods A Diocesan Synodal Process for 2018–2019.
First Phase (Autumn 2018): A time to “see”
Thanks to the collaboration of the generous people in the Archdiocese of Gatineau, nearly all of the parish communities participated actively in this phase. Focus groups were held with targeted populations such as youth, young families, people in long-term care facilities, new immigrants, members of church movements, and those belonging to religious communities. Priests, pastoral associates and secretaries were consulted to see how the diocesan team can better help them in their mission. You will find here the report of this first phase, which describes our current situation and identified issues and questions for the next phases.
In early December, the diocese team travelled throughout the diocese to meet delegates from each of the pastoral zones. During these meetings, we reviewed the parish reports to get an accurate picture of strengths and weaknesses of the parishes in each zone. We identified questions which we needed to address in our diocese. Participants were asked to share their ideas of what the next phase of the synodal process could look like. Please find below the reports of each of the pastoral zones of the diocese.
The participants at the June 2018 diocesan meet-up they expressed, among other things, the desire to listen to people who have taken their distance from the Church or who do not participate regularly in parish life. To do this, the diocesan team prepared an online questionnaire. The link to this questionnaire was widely spread among parishioners, who were invited to share it with the people around them. The questionnaire remained online between October 11 and November 30, in both French and English. Nearly a thousand people completed the questionnaire: 797 in French and 144 in English. You can find the results of the English questionnaire here.
Second Phase (Spring 2019 - Spring 2020): A time to “judge”
During Lent, we took time to deepen a conviction that emerged during the first phase of the synod: ''The Christian community helps us to grow in our relationship with Christ''. The theme song for the Lenten season, composed by Archbishop Durocher, was entitled ''A People Alive'' (The score of this song can be copied for free).
Having described our parish realities in the first phase of the synod, parishes communities then took time to reflect on what it means to be a missional Church. In May and June workshops were held throughout the diocese on this theme. Many parish delegates who attended these meetings felt that it would be helpful to also reflect on this question with others in their parish. To do so, a workshop was created to help their parishioners ponder on the importance of taking a ''missional turn'. Each parish received a short animation guide for a three-hour workshop. You can watch the video of Bishop Durocher which sets the context for this workshop by clicking here.
Among the activities of this period, there was also a morning of reflection held on December 7, 2019. It was led by Father Yves Guérette and was entitled: "What do we mean by "salvation" and "missionary disciple"? This presentation also emphasized the importance of God's Word in the life of the Church. A summary of this presentation can be found here.
During the months of March and April the delegates for the synod also met virtually for a time of sharing; the aim was to express their concerns and fears and to listen to each other in the time of confinement. During the online meetings, two questions were asked:
In line with the vision of a missional Church, how can we meet the needs of those around us?
In this time of crisis, what kind of collaboration can we consider between parishes, pastoral zones, and the diocesan centre?
During the month of May, Pierre-Alain Giffard offered a virtual workshop entitled "The Common Characteristics of Missional Christian Communities" which presented concrete examples of missional churches. The examples came from Catholic and Evangelical parishes around the world: in Italy, Canada, France, the United States and even Korea. The characteristics of these communities can be found here.
After the workshop participants were asked what they thought the next steps should be. Among the main suggestions were the following:
We would need to know how to put in place the pastoral guidelines presented (a step by step process).
Parishes, parish groups or zone should form a group to think about how they could become missional (in the light of the workshop).
It would be useful to have another workshop to understand how to evangelize in our culture.
We need to have training sessions for the leaders of the small evangelization groups.
We need to have a better knowledge of our environment, to know who to visit and listen (to their needs).
Give ourselves more time to discuss the content of this workshop so that we can integrate it and change our practices.
Our pastoral leadership needs to be formed and trained, especially pastors, so that they can lead the necessary efforts to implement the proposed missional orientations.
Parish communities, or groups of parishes, need a pastoral council to reflect on how they can become missional.