Welcome to PlenaryPost
It’s hard to believe that 2018 is already coming to a close. It’s also hard to believe that the Plenary Council’s Listening and Dialogue phase has been going for seven months already. Time has flown by and people’s stories of life and faith have flooded in.
Christmas is a chance for families and friends to come together and celebrate the birth of Christ and reflect on the year that was. In a special way this year, as the Church has embraced the Plenary Council, Christmas can be a time during which even more people participate in this unique process and shape the agenda for the Council sessions in 2020 and 2021.
As outlined below, more than 30,000 people have now shared their stories with the Plenary Council, either as individuals or as part of a group gathering. Most of those people have a strong connection with the Church and with parish life, though significant numbers of people from other Christian traditions or other faith traditions are also considering the question: “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”
At Christmas, some Catholics who remain connected with their faith will hear about the Plenary Council for the first time. They will be encouraged to share their individual stories and experiences and, like those other 30,000 people, describe what nourishes them, what sustains them, but also what challenges them about their faith and the Church.
Keep an eye out for the Plenary Council Christmas cards in local parishes and encourage friends and family to be part of this historic journey.
Finding the real joy of Christmas amid the busyness
by Lana Turvey-Collins
For some, life in the Christmas season seems to be increasingly hectic: filled with extra work deadlines, more people to meet with, more decisions to be made that can’t wait until next year and, of course, shopping trips battling crowds to meet the crazy expectations of presents, feasts and frivolities of the Christmas family and friends gatherings.
Life for others is one that is more of survival — the season of Christmas being no different to any other day of needing food, shelter and safety.
In the midst of society’s pressures, as Christian people, we experience the season of Advent: four weeks of preparing for the birth of Jesus. We are called to take some time to reflect on the year, pray together for the year to come, count our blessings, reach out to those who need support, and slow down.
It is counter-cultural to ask that we slow down and, for some, it is not so easy to do. When we deliberately make time and space to do so, we are able to connect with one another in a way that the hectic pace of daily life can prevent. These moments of being genuinely and deeply present to one another and to God are the real joy of Christmas.
Thank you all for your support, prayers and encouragement for the work of the Plenary Council. I hope that no matter where you find yourself this Christmas season, you are able to make some time to be still, connect and be present, and come to know the real joy of Christmas. On behalf of the Plenary Council team, I wish you a very happy and holy Christmas and best wishes for a wonderful start to 2019.
Peace be with you,
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 will be on the agenda for the Plenary Council in 2020?
The agenda for the first session of the Council will be formed in response to the dialogue and listening process that will happen during 2018-19. After an open and inclusive process of listening, dialogue, prayer and discernment, we will form the Council agenda in late 2019 and early 2020.
All I want for Christmas…
by Fr Noel Connolly SSC, Plenary Council Facilitation Team
The Plenary Council is not just about debating and planning. Our sense for the true and the good are critical, but beauty can nourish us and give us a joy that not only makes it all worthwhile, but also helps us present a “beautiful face” to the world.
We need to find ways of disclosing God’s beauty to our contemporaries, because beauty reveals, saves and inspires in a powerful but non-threatening way.
So this Advent, I will think of children and the excitement they feel in the last week before Christmas and I will pray for the gift of awe and wonder so that I, too, can see the beauty around me and perhaps radiate a little myself.
Surge takes number of respondents past 30,000
The Plenary Council received more than 2000 submissions during November, matching the number of responses the landmark process had received in the previous five months combined.
According to the latest figures from the National Centre for Pastoral Research, more than 31,000 people have shared their stories and engaged with the Plenary Council since the Listening and Dialogue stage launched at Pentecost in late May. Most of the 1300 groups, some of several hundred people, to have responded took part in a Listening and Dialogue Encounter, which is grounded in prayer and contemplation.
“While the sheer number of people demonstrating their interest in the future of the Catholic Church is impressive, we’re really pleased to see new groups of people participating as we prepare for the final three months of Listening and Dialogue,” said Lana Turvey-Collins, the Plenary Council facilitator.
Maeve Heaney VDMF, director of the Australian Catholic University’s Xavier Centre for Theological Formation, has told a group of Catholic leaders that the Plenary Council provides an opportunity to again consider the pivotal role of women in the Church.
Dr Heaney, along with other leaders from the Church and from the corporate world, was a member of a panel discussing the topic of “Women and Leadership in the Church”. She said it was a good time to talk about women’s leadership from a theological perspective, pointing to Pope Francis’ call in Evangelii Gaudium for pastors and theologians to reflect upon “the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life”.
“The aim is a thoughtful, inclusive, perhaps challenging but essential conversation around women’s presence in leadership in ecclesial circles that might help shape a way forward in our journey towards the 2020 Plenary Council in the awareness that we belong to one another. We are members of one another,” Dr Heaney said.
Christmas push looms for Plenary Council
With hundreds of thousands of people set to fill churches across Australia next week, Christmas is being seen as a great time to help broaden the reach of the Plenary Council.
Special Christmas cards have been printed to be given to those attending Christmas Masses, inviting people to share their stories and shape the Church’s future.
“Christmas is a time when we share our own stories with family and friends, some of whom we only see once or twice a year,” said Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB.
“In a particular way this year, we want to hear people’s stories of faith, their experience of the Church and their hopes for how we can better reflect the face of Christ in Australia.
“It’s important to hear about the lived experience of the many people who attend Mass just at Christmas and consider how the encouragement and nourishment of a faith community can be more a part of everyone’s lives.”
Process is one of ‘listening and letting people have their say’
Plenary Council opens new lines of communications
In her weekly column, the vice chancellor of pastoral ministries at the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has written about the Plenary Council’s ability to change the way people in the Church relate with one another.
“I am convinced that the process of the Plenary Council is inviting people to deep listening and dialogue. It is about inviting people to share their story, and in that storytelling to begin to enter into relationships, just as Jesus did,” Teresa Brierley wrote in her Tuesdays with Teresa column earlier this month.
“My own experience of the Plenary gatherings in the diocese has caused me to believe that this process, of sharing stories, asking questions and deep reflection on what future God is calling us toward, is inspirational and worthwhile.
“It takes great integrity and courage to speak from the heart about lived experiences of faith, the place of God in our lives and of our engagement with the Church.”
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