Welcome to PlenaryPost
The end of the Listening and Dialogue phase of the Plenary Council last month in some ways marked a public “pause” in the process, allowing the people of God to focus on preparing for and celebrating the great feast and season of Easter. During this period, significant work is taking place to review and analyse the submissions and lay the groundwork for the second phase: Listening and Discernment.
As outlined previously, the National Centre for Pastoral Research is conducting qualitative and quantitative analysis of the submissions received and, using best-practice research methods, will identify key themes. The Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council, the Plenary Council Executive Committee and the Facilitation Team will then work with the National Centre for Pastoral Research to finalise the National Themes for Discernment.
Those themes, to be announced on June 9, will become the focus for the Listening and Discernment phase and will be the foundations for the Plenary Council agenda. Resources to help people participate in that phase will ensure that the process continues to involve as many people as possible.
Featured Video: Bishops say “Thank You”
Paul Bowell and Trudy Dantis from the National Centre for Pastoral Research discuss how the NCPR is helping coordinate the review and analysis of the more than 17,500 submissions received during the Listening and Dialogue phase.
Youthful energy and enthusiasm
a model for the Plenary Council
by Lana Turvey-Collins
You would be aware that the National Centre for Pastoral Research is currently conducting the in-depth analysis of the 17,457 submissions — representing more than 222,000 people — which were received during the Listening and Dialogue stage. This week, we are able to provide for you all a statistical summary of the submissions.
Reading through this report (read more below) will give you some insight into the diversity of groups and individuals who participated in the first stage of preparation toward the Plenary Council. You are welcome to send through any questions or feedback to us at the Facilitation Team at email@example.com and we can add them to the growing list of FAQs on the Plenary Council website.
In the next edition of PlenaryPost, we will outline some of the detail of the next steps in the process. For now, check out the timeline on our website. You can download the poster.
This week we celebrate Holy Week. It is the pinnacle of preparation for the passion of Christ. It is a time to remember what unites us: the heart of our faith.
Yesterday I joined a couple of hundred young people aged 16 to 20 at the Lasallian Youth Gathering. They came from Pakistan, Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand and the theme of their conference was “One Life, One Commitment, One Heart”.
The energy and atmosphere of the gathering was electric – one that I wish everyone could have experienced. It was an environment where no matter how you might have been feeling walking into the room, the encounter with the young leaders was transformative.
I left feeling recharged, filled with the spirit of faith, more hope-filled and determined. I am grateful to them and have been reminded of the fact that all of us need to place real responsibility in the hands of young people – to not only believe in them, but to trust them – and to show this by creating platforms, structures and pathways for them to collaborate in the creation of strategies, making of decisions and implementation of ideas, not just in the areas of youth and young adult ministry, but all areas, works and ministries of Church life.
The Lasallian gathering was a great testament to this already happening in practice, and I personally felt challenged to ensure that the processes toward the Plenary Council – which is for the future of the Church – follows their lead.
On behalf of the Facilitation Team, I wish you all a very happy and holy Easter. May the spirit of the risen Christ be in your hearts.
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…
Why are we having a Plenary Council in 2020?
There are many reasons for having a Plenary Council for the Catholic Church in Australia: Pope Francis has invited the local church to dialogue; the contemporary society of Australia has changed significantly; and the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse has been a significant and influential event that requires deep consideration and response.
When the Australian Catholic bishops announced the decision to hold a Plenary Council, Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge said that “the Church is not the presence in our society it once was. We need to take a measure of that and make decisions accordingly. The culture in which we have to proclaim the Gospel is very different to what it was even 20 or 30 years ago.”
The Plenary Council is being held in 2020 in order to give the Catholic community in Australia time to listen, dialogue and discern with one another and, guided by the Holy Spirit, about the future, the role and relevance of the Catholic Church in Australia.
Holy Week: Jesus died to prove how good we are
by Fr Noel Connolly SSC, Plenary Council Facilitation Team
This is the most important week of the Christian year. During these next few days, we will relive Jesus’ passion and resurrection. Through our liturgies, we will try to share in his suffering. It will be an emotion-filled week.
Few Christians can look closely at the cross and not be moved with compassion. Unfortunately, for many Christians, the predominant reaction will be one of guilt. He died for our sins. “He was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins.” We accuse ourselves: “How could I do that to you? How could I betray you, who are so good?”
Undoubtedly, there is a lot of truth in this but we need to be careful of excessive concentration on our guilt. By reducing our meditation on the cross to a confession of our unworthiness, we may miss out on something much more important.
Submission statistics show Council’s national reach
People in every corner of Australia and from various parts of the Catholic Church — and beyond — participated in the Listening and Dialogue phase of the Plenary Council, a new report shows.
The National Centre for Pastoral Research, which is currently conducting the analysis of individual and group submissions, has just released a summary of statistical data covering the period from May 2018 until March 2019.
NCPR director Trudy Dantis advised that the listing of topics that were discussed in people’s submissions should not be seen as pre-empting the National Themes for Discernment, which will be announced on June 9 — Pentecost Sunday. Those themes will emerge from the qualitative analysis, while the report just released focuses on quantitative data.
Some of the largest groups to participate in the Listening and Dialogue phase included Catholic Social Services Victoria, a large parish in Canberra’s growing northern suburbs and the Passionist Family Movement.
The top five countries of birth for respondents, after Australia, were the United Kingdom, the Philippines, New Zealand, India and Ireland.
Half of the individual submissions received came from women, while 29 per cent came from men. About 30 per cent of submissions did not include an answer to the question about sex.
There were fewer Catholics in Australia in 2016 than in 2011, but they were more likely to have a higher education and more likely to have been born overseas than five years earlier.
The National Centre for Pastoral Research (NCPR) recently released the Social Profile of the Catholic Community in Australia, based on information contained in the 2016 Census. Census data already released outlined the drop in the number of people identifying as Catholic from 5,439,267 in 2011 to 5,291,834 in 2016. As a proportion of the total Australian population, the Catholic percentage dropped from 25.3 per cent to 22.6.
The Social Profile, however, offers a much deeper understanding of the Catholic population on a range of measures, including education, employment, income, birthplace, language and disability.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the Social Profile is one of the key tools bishops use to understand the Catholic community and will be a help in planning for the Plenary Council.
Plenary Council a focus for young women leaders
Women participating in a two-year program to prepare them for leadership roles in the future are contemplating the Plenary Council as part of their course work.
Twelve young women from across Australia recently completed the third of four sessions as part of the Leadership for Mission program. The third session had the theme “Theology for the Future: Reimagining Leadership”.
Polly Marriott, a Hobart mother and primary school teacher, said women’s place in the Church in Australia was considered within the broader context of the Plenary Council.
“One assignment asks us to imagine that we are developing a background paper for the Plenary Council 2020 process that will justify increased opportunities for women’s participation. That theology offers meaning and value for my daily life,” she said.
The Plenary Council and the cardinal virtues
The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s vice-chancellor of pastoral ministries says the Plenary Council might need to rely especially on one of the cardinal virtues as the process continues.
In her regular Tuesdays with Teresa reflection, Teresa Brierley wrote about the need for prudence in the analysis and discernment of the stories that people have shared.
“Prudence requires us to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong, or the reasoning between what is good and what is evil,” she wrote.
“Prudence is the acquired habit of making right judgements. These judgements are usually made after seeking counsel from others, looking at the evidence before us and reviewing the decision once it has been made and put into action.
“At this time of our Plenary Council in Australia, I wonder if we are able to apply to our Church the seven virtues, especially the cardinal virtue of prudence. Prudence is not just an intellectual virtue; it is also a moral virtue.
“How will we look at the many voices shared through the Plenary process and determine what is of the Spirit, and what is of our human making and desires? I have no doubt that the Spirit is asking us to seek out what is good for Australia, our Church and for the common good. This is a ‘big picture’ exercise.”
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