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School for Synodality

The "WUCWO School for Synodality: The Mission of Women in the Synodal Church" is launched


Panelists of the 4 February webinars, participants of the Synodal Assembly

The "WUCWO School for Synodality", an initiative of the World Union of Catholic Women's Organisations (WUCWO) organised through its World Women's Observatory (WWO), began on 27, 28 and 29 February, in order to make known and put into practice the synodal methodology through different events. This first meeting began with four webinars whose main objective was to report on the progress of the synodal process, share experiences with synodal mothers, learn about the official documents of the Synod, deepen some proposals and look to the future with a synodal perspective.

The event focused on chapter 9 of the Synodal Assembly Synthesis Document: Women in the life and mission of the Church and was attended by up to 508 participants from 61 different parts of the world.

At the beginning of each webinar, WUCWO President General Mónica Santamarina gave a brief introduction explaining the School for Synodality project. She commented that, through the synodal process, the way of doing church is changing, and stressed that "we seek to transform ourselves into a synodal Church". Santamarina said: "Under the guidance of Pope Francis and committed to the truth and unity of the Church we redouble our efforts to: discern in prayer and dialogue with others, the paths that the Spirit asks us to follow to achieve the full participation of women in the life of the synodal Church in mission, according to the vocation, charism and potential of each one". The President General concluded her interventions with the question: "How can we take on this dynamic of (synodal) work?

In each online meeting different conclusions could be drawn, as the invited panellists were different for each language: María de los Dolores Palencia and Eva Fernández (Spanish); Anne-Béatrice Faye and Sandra Chaoul (French) and Momoko Nishimura, Susan Pascoe, Maria Cimperman and Sheila Leocádia Pires (English). The dynamics followed were as follows: in their first intervention, the speakers expressed their personal experience as participants in the synodal assembly and, in the second instance, they went in depth into chapter 9 of the Synthesis Document of the synodal Assembly.

27 February - webinar in Spanish

The first panellist to speak was María de los Dolores Palencia, President Delegate of the Synodal Assembly. First of all, she underlined that, for her, being able to participate in the synod had been "a free gift from God". She also said that living the round tables was an "experience of communion and community, which was not built from the beginning, but was gradually built up". María de los Dolores Palencia was the first woman to be appointed President Delegate of the Synod of Bishops. When this news reached a priest friend of hers, he said to her: "Sister, do you realise that you have break through 20 centuries of Church history?", to which she replied that it was not her, "but that she was an instrument of God".

In the turn of Eva Fernández, special guest of the Synod Assembly, she wanted to highlight the "climate of mutual listening, dialogue and respect". She commented that this context of trust was also facilitated by the Pope, "because he always arrived before the start so that he could speak and greet the people in the Assembly". She also underlined some of the points that seemed to her to be most important in Chapter 9, such as the need to deepen the complementarity and reciprocity of men and women, or the responsibility to work for the communion of the Church "without falling into making parallel paths".


28 February - webinar in French

The second round was led by Anne-Beatrice Faye, Synod Assembly expert, and Sandra Chaoul, Synod Assembly facilitator. Faye put special focus on some of the proposals that came out of the Synthesis document, namely: increasing women's participation and responsibility in the decision-making and ministerial processes of the Church and extending listening and care services to women who suffer some kind of discrimination. She concluded by saying "Together we must seek creative responses, enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of our tradition".

For her part, Sandra Chaoul highlighted how the participation of each woman, "enriched the synodal experience and contributed to reveal more fully the richness and universality of the Church" - underlining - "I believe that the most beautiful contribution of the women was, without a doubt, their way of being".

However, one of the characteristics of this starting chapter of the School of Synodality was to be able to hear the testimonies of the speakers, who explained concrete experiences and, probably in many cases unnoticed, but which reveal the atmosphere that was breathed in the Synod. In the case of Sandra Chaoul, for example, she explained:

I remember a moment of sharing, where a woman expressed in the small group an experience of suffering with the Church. One of the participants, who had difficulty talking about his personal experience, when his turn came, it was so surprising and comforting to hear him say, with his note sheet in hand: "I had prepared an intervention on the topic we are dealing with, based on a teaching I wanted to share with you. But hearing you and seeing your tears, all I can do now is remain silent. It was as if the initial exchange had created a movement of resonance so profound that we could no longer continue speaking the same way.


29 February - webinars in English

On Thursday, 29 February, it was the turn of the English-speaking panellists. The first round was led by Momoko Nishimura, President Delegate of the Synodal Assembly, and Susan Pascoe, Synodal Assembly expert. Nishimura commented on the privilege she felt at being able to sit next to Pope Francis during the round tables, who, as she explained, "was the first to put these conversations into practice in the spirit, because “when he listened, he listened attentively, and when he prayed, he prayed intensely”. In addition, one of the issues Momoko Nishimura raised in Chapter 9 was "remuneration for women in the church who dedicate their lives fully to the church", as she experienced first-hand the situation of giving one's life to the service of the church and, at the same time, having to seek part-time jobs.

On the other hand, Susan Pascoe noted that, in her experience, "there were no sharp divisions between different church roles, gender, age, geography, etc. We began to agree on how we would like to be addressed. Most of the high-ranking ecclesiastics were happy to be addressed informally". On chapter 9, however, Pascoe focused on the importance of women's access to training programmes.

Maria Cimperman, facilitator of the Synod Assembly, and Sheila Leocádia Pires, Secretary of the Information Committee of the Synodal Assembly, closed this first meeting of the WUCWO School of Synodality. Cimperman assured assertively that she saw how "the Spirit transformed each individual, transformed us, only the Spirit can do this". The conclusion she underlined was the "urgent need to ensure that women can participate in decision-making processes and assume responsible roles in pastoral ministries".

Sheila Pires, on the other hand, expressed that "we need a Church that listens more and puts into practice more conversations in the Spirit" as well as "creating safe spaces for the children and women of the world". Finally, she said that the mission of listening is to walk together, for if "we walk together, our voices are better heard than if we walk separately".


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VX Dx5 Hs65c

Upcoming events

Thus, it is planned that on 17 April, up to 150 facilitators will be trained to accompany the "Conversations in the Spirit" and they will have the option of training in English, French or Spanish. Also, on April 23, two "Conversations in the Spirit" will be organised (in English, French and Spanish) with women coming from all continents, in order to listen to the Holy Spirit, to listen to each other and to discern the best ways to achieve the full participation of women in the Church. Registrations will be opened soon.

More information on other WUCWO and WWO projects can be found on the website.


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