Welcome to PlenaryPost
The build-up to the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia has, in many ways, been a long process. The origins of the Council go back almost 20 years, as the Australian bishops considered St John Paul II’s call in his apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte for the Church to consider its place in contemporary society.
It was eventually decided that a Plenary Council was the best way to do that, and the groundwork was prepared in 2016 and 2017. The Council has seemed to be out there – in the future – for three or four years. Now, with calendars showing 2020, the future has arrived for the Church in Australia. In fact, yesterday marked 250 days until the opening of the first assembly on October 4 in Adelaide.
Significant work has been taking place at the national level, including through the work of the Discernment and Writing Groups, and also at the local level, as groups gather for Listening and Discernment sessions. The discerned responses from those sessions are serving as input for the Discernment and Writing Groups as they prepare papers that will shape the Plenary Council agenda.
Read on for more updates from across the country as the Council’s preparation phase continues.
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 this edition is…
Who are the people serving on the Discernment and Writing Groups?
Lay people, priests and religious were selected, after a thorough application and interview process, to serve on the six Discernment and Writing Groups, which are each focusing on one of the six national themes for discernment. Each group also has two bishops.
The people serving on the groups come from a variety of backgrounds. The chair of each group has provided a brief comment on their involvement with the Plenary Council and their hopes for the once-in-a-lifetime process. Choose a national theme for discernment on this page to read those messages and see a list of the group members.
The process of synodality
In 2015, to mark the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of “synodality” within the Church. While it is often seen in the context of the Synods of Bishops, which meet regularly in Rome to discuss issues of importance, synodality also applies to the Church in other settings.
“What the Lord is asking of us is already in some sense present in the very word ‘synod’,” Pope Francis wrote. “Journeying together — laity, pastors, the Bishop of Rome — is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice.
“A synodal Church is like a standard lifted up among the nations in a world which — while calling for participation, solidarity and transparency in public administration — often consigns the fate of entire peoples to the grasp of small but powerful groups.
“As a Church which ‘journeys together’ with men and women, sharing the travails of history, let us cherish the dream that a rediscovery of the inviolable dignity of peoples and of the function of authority as service will also be able to help civil society to be built up in justice and fraternity, and thus bring about a more beautiful and humane world for coming generations.”
Listening and Dialogue diocesan reports published
While the Plenary Council is a gathering of the Church in Australia, it is also a chance for local parishes, dioceses and other Catholic communities to consider the question: What do you think God is asking of us at this time?
That question shaped the Listening and Dialogue phase of the Plenary Council. The national final report from that was published last year and can be downloaded here.
The National Centre for Pastoral Research, which conducted the analysis of submissions made during the Listening and Dialogue phase, has published a number of diocesan reports that summarise the responses from people in each geographical diocese. The reports only include submissions and stories from participants who gave consent for their submissions to be made public and released to their diocese.
The final 10 reports, for dioceses that had the greatest number of submissions, will be published in coming weeks.
Young Catholics ‘listened to the Spirit’
More than 5000 young people who attended the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in December were given a unique opportunity to discuss the future of the Church with bishops from across the country.
Over the three days of the festival, held in Perth, more than 20 sessions were focused on the Plenary Council’s national themes for discernment. In those sessions, bishops and young people considered how each of the themes were relevant to them and to the wider community.
Festival delegates said it was a good opportunity to speak to bishops and also a good chance for the bishops to hear from teenagers and young adults.
Hunter Catholics open their diocesan synod
Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright asked those attending the first session of their diocesan synod to ponder a question that mirrors the Plenary Council’s six National Themes for Discernment.
Bishop Wright asked: “As disciples of Christ, what needs to happen in our hearts and in our minds and in our community for us to be a Christ-centred Church that is: missionary and evangelising; inclusive, participative and synodal; prayerful and eucharistic; humble, healing and merciful; joyful, hope-filled and a servant of the community; open to conversion, renewal and reform?”
Catholic Social Services Australia CEO Ursula Stephens, Lismore Bishop Greg Homeming OCD and Fr Richard Lennan were among speakers who explored each of those areas. Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins, reflecting on her travels throughout the country, spoke about what can happen when people are willing to “listen to what the Spirit is saying” — the Scripture quote that is guiding the Plenary Council.
Bishop promotes place of people with disability
In his message for the International Day of People with Disability last month, Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton called on the Church to provide more leadership opportunities for people with a disability.
Bishop Sproxton said parishes and other Catholic settings were important places for people with disability to be supported and encouraged to take on leadership roles. He said the Plenary Council could also be a place where people with disability can facilitate conversations about the Church and its future.
February 17: Brisbane Student Assembly. Contact Eric Robinson for more details.
February 26-28: Catholic Social Services Victoria Conference, Melbourne. See website for more details.
March 4: Church Governance Symposium, hosted by the Implementation Advisory Group, Sydney. See website for more details.
March 12-14: National Biennial Liturgy Conference, Parramatta. See website for details.
March 20-22: Sisterhood National Catholic Women’s Conference: Anointed. Hosted by the Catholic Collective, Stanwell Tops, NSW. See website for more details.
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