Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE), Canada Continues to Engage the Synodal Process

The Synod on Synodality Process

In 2021, Pope Francis initiated a process to seek global input from Catholics about how we could become a more synodal church. “Synodality” (walking together) requires the participation of all to discern what the Spirit is calling the Catholic Church to be in our time.

After this two-year consultation, a new kind of Synod Assembly occurred in Rome in 2023. For the first time, 20% of participants were non-bishop voting delegates, including women and youth.

CNWE’s Synodal Experience in Rome and Canada: Something New is Being Born

As delegates met inside the Synod Hall, nine CNWE members joined reform-minded Catholics in actions outside the Assembly, raising our voices for women’s equality and an inclusive, accountable Catholic Church.

It became apparent when we met with two of the Canadian women Synod delegates in Rome, that something new was happening at this Synod. The delegates’ experience of roundtable ‘conversations in the Spirit’ (with an emphasis on deep listening, sharing from experience, and prayer) meant that the voices of women, among other marginalized groups, were being heard.

As CNWE member Louise Dowhan from Winnipeg, MB said,

“Being in Rome, as women’s greater participation was discussed in the Vatican Assembly gave me a sense of hope for a renewed way of being church.”

The press coverage of the Synod and reform actions in Rome amplified this message of hope around the world. A blog of CNWE’s Rome experience can be found here.  

In Winnipeg, members and friends of CNWE gathered on October 4 to pray in solidarity with CNWE members in Rome and with all Synod delegates at the grave of former Winnipeg Archbishop Cardinal Flahiff. Cardinal Flahiff advocated for women’s participation in all aspects of ecclesial life, and at a Synod in Rome in 1971, he presented the Canadian bishops’ proposal to open a discussion on the possibility of ordaining women.” Learn more about the Winnipeg event here.

A Call for Co-Responsible Participation in the Work of Synodality

CNWE has been continuing the Synodal conversation by sharing the hope of our Rome experience with Catholic, ecumenical and Roman Catholic Women Priest (RCWP) communities.

CNWE is also embracing synodality by working with new conversation partners: hosting an online gathering with Synod delegate, Sr. Elizabeth Davis in February, and in March, we will partner with Concerned Lay Catholics as part of their ‘Nurturing Synodality Series.

The Synod resources, Synthesis Document “A Synodal Church in Mission” , “Towards 2024” and “Worksheet” invite all members of the church to consider the question: “HOW we can be a Synodal Church in mission?” prior to the 2024 Synod Assembly.

Catholics who have been engaging questions of deep importance in the life of the church (including structural changes to church ministry and governance) must make good and urgent use of this interim period between Synodal Assemblies.

CNWE welcomes the challenge of working toward a church that incarnates in word, action and structures, the radical equality, inclusion, and love of Christ.

We hope that Canadian Synod delegates, clergy and bishops will join with CNWE and all Catholic individuals and groups by planning concrete opportunities for robust, inclusive dialogue at local, regional, and national levels. May this ‘something new’ in the life of our Church be guided by the Spirit to grow and flourish in our time.

Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE) and Concerned Lay Catholics (CLC) Collaborate to Nurture Synodality!

On the afternoon of Sunday March 3, reform-minded Catholics are invited to join CNWE and CLC for a conversation about the Synod on Synodality in relation to the work for women’s equality in the Catholic Church. Please plan to join the conversation for an early celebration of International Women’s Day!
Please click here to register:

Video: Synod Discussion on Zoom with Sister Elizabeth Davis

Sr. Elizabeth Davis (RSM), was one of 54 women voting members at the historic “Synod on Synodality” at the Vatican from October 4-29, 2023.  In this recording of her January 17 presentation, for which 300 persons registered, she speaks of her experience of being a Synod member, some challenges/opportunities she sees for Catholics world wide, some implications of being “a synodal church in mission”, and her sense of urgency in the importance of Catholics engaging the process more deeply, prior to the next session of the Synod in October 2024.

This Zoom was inspired by the example of nine members of the Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE) who also went to Rome in October 2023, participated in a “Synod outside the walls”, and met with Elizabeth at that time.

The Zoom was actualized through a unique collaboration among the Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE-Western region), Reseau Compassion Network (RCN), the Grey Nuns of Montreal (SGM), and the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions (RNDM).

May this video help all of us discern how we can further participate in the process of becoming a Synodal church.

Video: Solidarity with CNWE in Rome

CNWE members in Canada participated in the Synod in Rome, through prayer, intention and action.  Members were encouraged to take a photo of themselves in solidarity, and Sr. Giang Pham put those photos and reflections together, into this 7 minute video on YouTube:

Telling Our Story to Belgians

Thursday I was the guest speaker at a luncheon organized by the Centre for Women’s Studies in Theology at the Faculty of Theology, Catholic University of Leuven (Louvain) Belgium.  I had been involved in founding the Centre in 1993.

While I was asked to speak to several questions, I did manage to describe what our CNWE team did in Rome, our rationale, and how we did our legwork with the media.  Those present were almost all young graduate and doctoral students in theology, and the reaction I heard back was deep disappointment about the misogyny in the Church (using just that term).  I was asked if I saw even a tiny crack in the stained-glass ceiling, and I said Yes — just a hairline crack.  I let speakers know that they were heard, and encouraged them to hope and to work for reform in this historic moment.  

Then I met two longtime friends for coffee, two religious sisters, 86 and 87 years old.  And they were interested in what we did as well.

So the tent expands a tiny bit further…

Susan Roll