Welcome to PlenaryPost
It’s been another busy fortnight as the Plenary Council marks one month since the official launch at Pentecost. Momentum is building as people across Australia get together in groups, download the Listening and Dialogue guide, get together for conversation and then are sending their responses in online. More than 120 responses have already been received.
The facilitation team has been traversing the country in the past couple of weeks, visiting communities in Townsville, Cairns, Broken Bay and Bathurst and spending time with the council of Catholic Religious Australia. We also held a first gathering of diocesan Plenary Council coordinators, where people shared their hopes, concerns and plans for the preparation towards the Plenary Council. Read more below.
Are we really ready to listen deeply to one another?
by Lana Turvey-Collins
I’m writing this on the run in between booking flights, typing notes from the last meeting I was at and responding to my grumbling stomach! More and more, I am reminded how important it is to create time and space to share our stories: it is essential if we are truly to listen to what the Spirit is saying. Time and space is needed for deep listening.
Despite the many challenges, it is a great privilege to be doing this work and every day there is something to be grateful for. As I travel around, I meet hundreds of women and men of many different backgrounds in Catholic schools, parishes, health and aged care organisations, religious orders, diocesan agencies and social ministries working hard to ensure that as many voices as possible are heard during this first stage of preparation for the Plenary Council. If you’re reading this and aren’t sure how you can contribute your voice to the Plenary Council, then you can read more here.
Primarily, when I am with groups of people, we have been doing the Listening and Dialogue Encounter together. It has been both encouraging and troubling to hear people share stories of their faith and experiences of the Church with one another and with me. I am encouraged by the strength of faith and the sheer resilience of faith-filled people throughout the Church.
I encourage every person to be a part of this process. You don’t need to wait; you can be involved now. It is from your stories, and the questions you raise, that the agenda for the Plenary Council will be shaped. All people connected with the Catholic Church in Australia are invited to speak freely, to share from your heart about your experience of faith and the Church, and listen deeply with an open and humble heart to the stories of others. The listening is the challenging part. Listening deeply can transform our hearts and minds. The lives of those who listened to Jesus were changed forever.
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…
Does my voice, my experience, sharing my story really matter?
Yes, absolutely! Each of us is called as children of God to respond to Pope Francis’s invitation to become a “synodal” Church – a Church of faith-filled people who speak boldly and with passion, and who listen deeply with an open and humble heart.
In his address to the Bishops of the world, Pope Francis explains the importance of listening, dialogue and prayer.
“A synodal Church is a Church which listens, which realises that listening is more than simply hearing. It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the ‘Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14:17), in order to know what he ‘says to the Churches’ (Rev 2:7).”
Vatican document underlines importance of lay participation in synods and other collaborative processes
A recently-published document from the International Theological Commission has emphasised the place of lay people as key contributors to decision-making within the Catholic Church, creating a more “synodal” Church.
Synodality in the Life of the Church, published last month with the approval of Pope Francis, said the lived experience of lay people can inform the Church and Catholic leaders in their work.
Lay people are “the immense majority of the People of God and we have much to learn from their participation in the various expressions of the life and mission of church communities, of popular piety and of general pastoral care, as well as from their specific expertise in various fields of cultural and social life”, the document said.
It goes on: “This is why consulting them is indispensable in starting the processes of discernment within the framework of synodal structures. It is therefore necessary to overcome obstacles represented by a lack of formation and recognised forums in which the lay faithful can express themselves and act, and from a clerical mentality that risks keeping them at the margins of ecclesial life.”
Diocesan coordinators hold first gathering
At their meeting in May, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference agreed that each diocese (including the eastern Churches and Ordinariates) would nominate two people to be part of a national network of diocesan Plenary Council coordinators.
The first cohort of members of that network met in Sydney last week to share their early experiences, to learn how other dioceses are approaching the Plenary Council process and make plans for ensuring people are as involved as possible with the Plenary Council, especially during the Listening and Dialogue sessions. The spirit of the day was collegial and full of passion.
Among those at the meeting where representatives from Perth, Darwin, Sale, Sandhurst, Melbourne, Bathurst, Brisbane, Rockhampton, Townsville, Sydney and Parramatta. There will be a repeat session in the coming weeks for dioceses and other groups that are still getting started.
Plenary Council takes in five Townsville stops
Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins took another trip to north Queensland recently, holding five meetings in the Diocese of Townsville to promote local engagement. According to a report from the Diocese, Bishop Tim Harris (left) encouraged locals to “be brave” as the period of listening and dialogue commences locally and nationally. Read more here.
Canberra Goulburn hosts listening posts
Catholics in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn have this week held the first of several listening and dialogue sessions. Archbishop Christopher Prowse has written a series of theological reflections about the Plenary Council and encouraged people living in the Archdiocese to “listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us in these challenging times”. More sessions will be held this week and in the coming weeks. Click here to access the reflections.