St. Mike’s to Host Synod Panel on Listening to People on the Peripheries  

Migrants+Refugees and Synod visual

The University of St. Michael’s College will host a key event in Pope Francis’s Synod on Synodality process with the findings from a North American report commissioned by the Vatican as part of the Doing Theology from the Existential Peripheries project to be presented during a panel discussion on campus.

The panel, moderated by Dr. Mark McGowan, will take place Thursday, November 10 from 7-9 p.m. and will also be made available online.

Dr. Darren Dias, OP, an Associate Professor in St. Michael’s Faculty of Theology who also serves as Executive Director of the Toronto School of Theology, was appointed last December by Rome’s Dicastery on Human Integral Development to join the project’s North American working group, with similar exercises conducted around the world. The eight theologians conducting the research listening to the concerns of those on the margins were led by Stan Chu Ilo, a St. Michael’s alumnus who is a professor of World Christianity, Ecclesiology, and African Studies at Chicago’s De Paul University. 

“We have presented our findings in the context of a conversation,” says Dias, who explains that there is an ongoing commitment on the part of the working group–and Pope Francis–to listen to the experience of people, and especially to those who often find themselves without a voice. Each of the six working groups around the world is invited to hold some sort of event to share their initial findings as part of an ongoing conversation/listening process to ensure that the findings are known to the general public. 

Pope Francis as seen in the "Wisdom from the Margins" video.
Pope Francis as seen in the “Wisdom from the Margins” video.

The groups were assigned themes from Pope Francis’s teachings such as migration, ecology, and vulnerability. As the North American report explains, “we take readers into the world of so many people whose voices are not often heard in our churches and society,” with members of the working group visiting prisons, refugee and immigration centres, national borders, convents, holding centres, seniors’ residence, rehabilitation centres, churches and social and pastoral centres, to name a few. 

“We are committed to bolstering ways in which theology can support engaging the peripheries,” Dias says. “This is a research project, an academic exercise, and we will report our findings to the bishops, theologians, pastoral workers, and the faithful in service to the Church. This is the business of a Catholic university, to be at the margins. We are committed to bolstering a theology that supports the theological renewal proposed by Pope Francis.” 

Pope Francis launched the synodal process in 2021 to help the Church to listen to its constituents and learn from them. The pope has since extended the window during which the synodal process takes place until 2024. 

Earlier this year the University of St. Michael’s College Synodal Working Group held seven listening circles for students, staff, and faculty, and conducted 25 one-one-one interviews before submitting a report to Rome on the findings. University President David Sylvester presented a brief summary on the methods used at St. Michael’s to Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ, undersecretary and consultor to the Synod at meetings in Rome in June. 

Final reports from the peripheries project are available online: 

Watch the video for additional context: Wisdom from the Margins

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