Pastoral teams from across the diocese responded to Archbishop Christian Lépine’s invitation and gathered Oct. 16 and 24 for a full day of listening and reflection. The two meetings concluded the dialogue process launched Oct. 8 for the English-sector parishes. *(see link below). About 200 participants from 72 parishes were in attendance at the two meetings.
These meetings were part of the diocesan worksite, an invitation to work together to develop our Church’s missionary side. Episcopal vicar Bishop Dufresne recalled in his introduction that the focus this year would be on “listening.” A four-step approach aiming at exploring the capacity for individual and collective listening was suggested to participants. During the plenary, some individuals stressed the necessity for the ecclesial bodies to listen more carefully and to be more receptive to dialogue.
Others also expressed the distress felt by some parishes experiencing problems of all kinds, and their discouragement in view of the little feedback they received from the Diocesan Curia. Some also mentioned that the diocese should commit to the worksite by drafting a clear plan, which will ensure its proper understanding and reasonable implementation.
In the afternoon, participants focused on child abuse in the Church and on their effects on individuals and communities. Small workshops enabled everyone to share their views. Considering what was disclosed on a global scale and in dioceses, participants said they felt shame, anger, sorrow and incomprehension in reaction to the gestures of the priests and staff person involved. Moreover, some individuals deplored the attitude of certain bishops, which in the past worsened the case. Yet, the will today to break the culture of silence is strong and brings hope. Far from feeling discouraged, the pastoral team representatives stated clearly that they do not question their faith nor their involvement. On the contrary, they say they love their Church despite its imperfections. They also say that they feel responsible for ensuring the protection of children and vulnerable individuals, finding solutions to hurtful situations and bridging the communication gap.
Archbishop Lépine listened to the participants’ joys and struggles, and took the opportunity to specify that we cannot engage in the missionary shift if we are not ready to listen to the Holy Spirit when we encounter the suffering caused by sexual abuse. Today, evangelizing means listening to the victims and welcoming their questions and comments in the various communities. “Let’s not be scared of the truth and its consequences,” were Archbishop Lépine’s last words.
At the end of the day, Bishop Faubert, General Vicar of the Diocese of Montreal, promised the participants that a summary of the three diocesan pastoral team meetings would be done by the end of November. The avenues for action that will emerge will be taken into account and implemented. Parishes will be kept informed.