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Exercise of coming together as Church

Feb 15, 2023

Barbara Dowding participated in the local Vancouver synod ten years ago as well as in the current synod process. She appreciates how ‘people felt quite free to express their opinions and their thoughts and their desires’ in the Virtual Continental Assemblies.

By Sr Bernadette M. Reis, fsp – Vatican News Journalist & Special Envoy from Synod’s General Secretariat

Barbara Dowding, special assistant to Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver, is one of the people contributing to the compilation of the continental response to the Working Document for the Continental Stage of the Synod.

In an interview with Vatican News, Mrs. Dowding explained some of the highlights of her experience of the synodal process and from the Virtual Continental Assemblies she participated in.

Opening meeting in Rome

“The highlight for me would have to be attending the opening in Rome in October 2021. I was one of five people from Canada who was able to be there. To participate with that group was phenomenal. I learned so much about the art of synod. I remember clearly, we had the long breaks of five minutes of silence between discussions and I really learned there how to not think about what I was going to say next. And it took some time to actually develop that art, to listen authentically.”

Sharing from the heart

“I value the group that I was in. It was huge. I think there were about twenty people in those groups and you only had about two minutes, but then you had to remember everything. It was a real experience of sharing from the heart and not having pressure. The pressure was off because you just said what you said when you said it.”

Synod ten years ago in Vancouver

“Lots of highlights along the way…. I’ve been coordinating the Synod in our diocese for some time. Ten years ago, we had a Synod. I was the general secretary for that. That was a proper one done with all the rules and regulations from the Vatican. It was an enormous success and a real gift for our diocese. So, everything related to Synod has had my name on it, according to Archbishop Miller. So, taking this next step for the diocese was really satisfying. It took a little while to get the priests on-side. We had real sessions, not virtual sessions in the parishes. The fruits I remember were anecdotal. People said things like: ‘I never did that before’; feeling valued; being able to say things honestly and from the heart. People really, really did feel that deeply.”

Participation of priests

“We had sessions for our priests and that was well received. Maybe not as many as I wished could have come, but the ones that did participate valued the process. One of the priests said to me, ‘I’ve known Father So-and-So for ten years and I’ve never talked to him.’ That was profound for me. So, we’re going to keep that going.

“And also, being part of the Synod writing team for Canada was really a wonderful experience. Traveling with the four other people was something I never dreamt of. I still don’t know why I got included, it’s a privilege.”

Continental Virtual Assemblies

“I was fortunate. I actually participated in two. What I really liked about the sessions was the time of breakout when people felt quite free to express their opinions, and their thoughts, and their desires. I found that some of the times we would go off track too much. But always by the end of the session somehow, somebody –probably the moderator – brought us back to where we should be.

“So, in the final analysis, when you got to hear what everybody had to say on that particular day, it really did mirror the document that we were using. To say there was no surprises is probably true. It was all things we’ve heard before.