Welcome to PlenaryPost
The Catholic Church in Australia, like many in the western world, has been undergoing a quite radical transformation in recent years. The history of the Church here was largely forged by people with British, Irish and European heritage – just as the nation’s history was influenced by those cultures.
A look into the pews of most churches today, though, reflects a diversity that has been a source of great vibrancy for the Catholic community. The Plenary Council 2020 journey is being enriched by the insights of people from all backgrounds, including ethnic backgrounds. Their stories will help us understand their hopes and fears, their prayers and their challenges, as the Church considers what God is asking of it in Australia at this time.
This week, the Church in Australia marks Migrant and Refugee Week, with a particular focus during Masses this weekend. This resource from the Australian Catholic and Migrant Refugee Office provides wonderful reflections from the Holy Father, leading Catholic thinkers on migration, refugees and asylum-seekers. It also has material for use in parishes, including Prayers of the Faithful.
Continuing on from Bishop Robert Barron’s reflections on Vatican II in the last edition of PlenaryPost, theologian Fr Stephen Bevans SVD discusses how the pivotal Council in the 1960s changed the way people in the Church interact.
Treasuring difference can lead us to be a more missionary Church
by Lana Turvey-Collins
This week, I visited a parish and spent time with a group of passionate women and men who are serving in the military and who belong to the Australian Defence Force Academy Catholic community in Canberra. It was a wonderful experience with people who are encountering one another with an attitude of love and openness to the Spirit.
Within the group, people held quite different perspectives that, to an outsider, might seem irreconcilable. However, in earnest, they are working as brothers and sisters in one Body of Christ toward discovering the future God has for us all. They are in genuine dialogue with one another, seeking the emergent voice of the Spirit.
The methodology of the Listening and Dialogue Encounter is an experience that takes some practice. The desire to list “what I want” or “what I don’t like” and put it forward for someone else to make the change is an approach that embeds a culture of clericalism and repeats behaviours that nurture a hierarchical Church.
Dialogue and listening to one another and reflecting on what God might be wanting from us, however, requires behaviours, language and attitudes of synodality. In this process, we need to work together, collaborating across boundaries that may have divided us in the past and, in this way, we can become a more missionary Church.
If we practise sharing stories and being in dialogue with one another in a way that begins with the belief that the “other” is someone I can learn from and see God in, then possibilities and opportunities and pathways forward emerge for us.
We bring ourselves with all of our strengths and flaws into the Listening and Dialogue Encounter, we are called to be gentle with one another, to treasure the differences and love one another as God does – unconditionally, and as imperfectly perfect as each of us are.
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…
What is the role of the Facilitation Team?
The Facilitation Team is responsible for helping the Church in Australia to prepare for the Plenary Council. This includes enabling a dialogue and listening process that all people can engage in about the future of the Church in Australia; providing and facilitating education and formation about topics related to the Plenary Council and the mission of the Church; and also organising the events of the Plenary Council sessions in 2020 and 2021.
We need a missionary Church, rather than a perfect Church
by Fr Noel Connolly SSC, Plenary Council Facilitation Team
As I travel around Australia promoting the Plenary Council, I encounter both scepticism and hope. The most frequent question is “will the bishops listen?” At the same time there is a reservoir of hope in people. They love the Church and want to be a part of its future. They want to talk and they want to be listened to.
My hope is that we can build a Church in which lay men and especially women can play their rightful role in the ministry and governance of the Church, and where we can learn to trust one another – bishops and all the people of God.
But in recent weeks I have been giving more thought to the question posed for the Council: “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” The question refers to Australia, not to the Church. The Plenary Council is not just for our Church, but for our country. Even if we were to come up with a transformed Church, if the country does not benefit, we will have “failed”. We will have failed because we will have failed to be Church.
The Catholic world is watching Australia
The entire Catholic world is watching as the Church in Australia moves towards the Plenary Council 2020, one of America’s leading theologians has told The Catholic Leader in Brisbane.
“I think this is one of the most important things that is going to happen in the Church – universal – in the next four or five years,” Boston College Professor Richard Gaillardetz said.
Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins recently spent time with members of the Council of Catholic School Parents (NSW/ACT), including members of the group’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parent committee.
CCSP executive director Linda McNeil said the conversation “was an excellent opportunity to engage CCSP Council members in an open discussion about the Plenary Council 2020 and [Lana] challenged us to think about the pockets of our community that we are less familiar with and to engage those people in a conversation about what they think the future of the Catholic Church should look like”.
Dozens of leaders of parishes, schools and agencies within the Diocese of Broken Bay gathered recently for a training session aimed at equipping them to facilitate conversations in their local communities.
The two-day workshop included presentations from Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins and Daniel Ang, director of Broken Bay’s Office for Evangelisation.
“The intent of the days together was not simply to provide information but inspiration, to affirm our shared belief that God continues to speak to the Church today and guide the Church through the Holy Spirit,” Mr Ang said.
“The Church has always gathered at moments of important decision, to tune in to what the Spirit is saying and to respond. We have arrived at one of those moments.”
Plenary Council on the road
Members of the Plenary Council Faciliation Team are criss-crossing the country attending gatherings large and small. Among the upcoming events they will attend are:
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