Welcome to PlenaryPost
When the Church decided to hold a Plenary Council to consider the future of the Catholic Church in Australia, it naturally became a focal point for many people. We know that the success of the Council will depend largely on how the people of God choose to participate — or not — with the process.
There is already significant interest from many quarters, and we’ll offer a bit of a snapshot of that engagement in our next newsletter.
The recent Proclaim Conference in Brisbane was a great opportunity for the almost 700 people there to spend some time reflecting on the Plenary Council. The renewal of parishes and a reinvigoration of faith, which are goals of Proclaim, are the sorts of things that many people hope will be among the fruits of the Plenary Council. Other gatherings across the country are generously incorporating Plenary Council into their programs, helping us build momentum and also build groups of people who can be champions of this journey we’re on.
Stories of faith are shaping the Council
by Lana Turvey-Collins
This week, we pass the two-month mark of the first stage of the Plenary Council preparation stage being open – a stage of open Listening and Dialogue encounters. This first stage will be open until Ash Wednesday 2019. After an experience of sharing stories with one another, everyone is invited to complete the online response questions:
1. What do you this God is asking of us in Australia at this time?
2. What questions do you have about the future of the Church in Australia that you would like the Plenary Council to consider?
3. What stories would you like to share of your experiences of faith or of the Church?
The three questions weave a tapestry that extends beyond writing a list of desires for change and invites every person to invest themselves, to share something personal and from the heart, from lived experience.
The time and space we are able to make to share stories with one another in this encounter have the power to break through barriers of prejudice, judgement and ideological divisiveness if we engage with integrity and genuine commitment to listening to what the Spirit is saying – by listening to one another’s stories.
Some of the stories that have been shared in the first two months of the open Listening and Dialogue stage have been about music and liturgy; about fears of younger generations not having any faith in God and battling through life reliant on only their humanity; of being a woman and yearning for recognition in the role she is playing in her parish and life; of being a young gay man and wanting to belong; and many more diverse and inspiring topics.
They are stories of our humanity, lived in faith and shared with hope of a better, more loving, more Christ-like, more missionary, more joyful Church.
As we continue this journey together, let stories of our experiences be spoken with courage, and may they be heard with ears of the heart, so that we may be transformed.
We will address a new question in each e-newsletter. To catch up on previous editions, you can check out the Plenary Council FAQ page. If you have a question, email it to us and we will include it in future editions of PlenaryPost.
The question for today is…
How is a Plenary Council different from a Synod?
Both gatherings can be influential for the Church. A Plenary Council is the highest form of gathering of local Church and has legislative and governance authority. The decisions that are made at the Council become binding for the Catholic Church in Australia. A Synod does not have this legislative and governance authority.
Plenary Council offers a chance for the Church
to rediscover its relevance
by Sr Mary Fermio RSJ and Sr Audrey Thomson RSJ
The invitation to take part in the Plenary Council offers all in the Church a wonderful opportunity to be in dialogue with all Catholics – lay, Religious and clerics – across Australia. It can enable all to have a voice in determining how we can restore relevance to the Church in our society – a relevance which has been tarnished and greatly diminished by scandals, cover-ups and other factors which have caused many to feel alienated and without hope.
The important question we are asked to ponder and respond to is: “What do you think God is asking of the Church in Australia today?” First and foremost, this question is a reminder that no matter who or where we are, whether we are active in ministry or the workforce, or in retirement, each of us is the Church and each of us has a responsibility for the life of the Church.
Song calls us to Listen
At the recent Proclaim Conference, the Plenary Council song Listen was released. The song draws upon the Church’s local and international roots, with didgeridoo and bagpipes featuring. Singer/songwriter Peter Pellicaan said the song “invites people to listen to God, but also to reflect and ponder on what it would mean for the Church to look like Jesus”.
Thousands involved with Listening and Dialogue
Thousands of people have participated in Plenary Council Listening and Dialogue sessions over the first two months, with hundreds of submissions lodged via the website. Those submissions are being collated and assessed by the National Centre for Pastoral Research and will shape the agenda for the Plenary Council sessions in 2020 and 2021. Read more here.
BBI — The Australian Institute of Theological Education will next month host its 14th eConference, with this gathering having a significant focus on the Plenary Council 2020.
The free eConference, to be held on August 14, will feature local and international speakers Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australian Catholic University’s Gemma Cruz, Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins and US-based theologians Professor Massimo Faggioli and Professor Richard Lennan.
The conference theme is “Synodality in Practice: Listening to the Spirit and Leading Change”. Click here to read more.
Australian Catholic University is also hosting short courses in Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne over the coming few weeks to help people understand and engage with the Plenary Council. Click here for more information on the ACU courses.
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