Plenary Post_Edition 27


Plenary Council 2020

Welcome to PlenaryPost

The postponement of the Plenary Council assemblies by 12 months has been both a blessing and a challenge. One of the blessings has been the additional time to consider how we can be a Christ-centred Church in Australia with a clearer understanding of how COVID-19 is changing the country and the Church.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe has taken the opportunity to invite people to better understand the practice of discernment. He’s done that through a new paper, titled “A Journey of Discernment”, which he introduces in a video below.

The People of God in Australia have also been invited to read a new report on Church governance and management, which fulfils one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. The Plenary Council will likely consider some of the dozens of recommendations, while others are more suited to diocesan or parish implementation.


With all the date changes that have taken place with the rescheduling of the assemblies, a new timeline has been developed to help people understand the next couple of years of the Council journey. Click here to access the 2020-2022 timeline.

Read more about these matters, and other recent or upcoming events, in this month’s Plenary Post.


Joining the Facilitation Team and the Plenary Council journey

by Marion Gambin RSJ


It is just on two months since I joined the Plenary Council Facilitation Team. I’ve spent considerable time reading your responses to the listening, dialogue and discernment process, reflecting on the six Thematic Discernment Papers released on Pentecost Sunday and responding to the emails you have continued to send to the Plenary Council. It’s been such a privilege to “sit with” all that is dear to the heart of Australian Catholics and all that you long for from this renewal journey of our faith community.

I’ve also appreciated the welcome I have received from Peter Gates and Olivia Lee and enjoyed working with them in updating the milestones journey poster. We grappled with the task of rearranging meetings, now that we have the two assembly dates in place for October 2021 and July 2022, at the same time very mindful of the impact COVID-19 continues to have on our daily lives. No doubt you will appreciate it is rather difficult to forecast when we might once again have any meetings face to face, so while we continue to cope with this coronavirus environment, we shall be meeting via Zoom. Perhaps this will continue to be a part of our “new normal” of engaging with each other.

During the past two months the Team has also worked together to prepare a guide for your use as a resource in reflecting on the six Thematic Discernment Papers. I really encourage you to see how you might use this guide in your local Church community and then, if you choose, send in your responses to the Facilitation Team. I also encourage you to take the time to read the paper and watch the video by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe on the Journey of Discernment introduced below. As Archbishop Costelloe says, “the discernment process is the heart of the Plenary Council journey”.

This month we celebrated the feast day of Mary MacKillop, patron of the Plenary Council. Mary was no stranger to coping with the challenges of life’s circumstances. Even during times of enormous suffering, she trusted in the loving providence of God. I have no doubt she would be encouraging us to do the same.

Blessings of peace,
Marion Gambin rsj



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…

When are the Plenary Council Assemblies?

As of June 2020, Assembly 1 will be held in Adelaide on October 2-10, 2021 and Assembly 2 will be held in Sydney on July 4-9, 2022. Read the full media release on the new dates here.

The first Assembly of the Plenary Council 2020 was originally slated to take place in Adelaide, October 2020. This would have been followed by Assembly 2 in Sydney, July 2021.



The virtues of synodality
by Reverend Associate Professor Ormond Rush

From Fr Rush’s paper entitled “Plenary Council Participation and Reception: Synodality and Discerning the Sensus Fidelium

Our Plenary Council will be effective only if we embrace what I call “a spirituality of synodality”. Institutional structures such as plenary councils require particular spiritual dispositions on the part of all, if a synodal Church is to be realised. Vatican II spoke of “a collegial spirit (affectus collegialis)” among the college of bishops (Lumen Gentium 23).

In the end, synodality will only be fully realised when a genuine “synodal spirit” pervades all levels of the Catholic Church, from the single baptised Catholic to the pope. In his greeting to the bishops at the start of the 2014 synod [on the family], Pope Francis spoke of a “general and basic condition” for genuine synodality: the freedom to speak honestly. “It is necessary to say with parrhesia (boldness) all that one feels.”

However, this must be accompanied, he said, by another condition: listening with humility and with an open heart to what others say with honesty, what he calls “the gift of listening.”

“Synodality is exercised with these two approaches.” We could call them “synodal virtues”.

Click here to read Fr Rush’s full paper.


A Journey of Discernment

In light of the postponement of the Plenary Council assemblies by 12 months, Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB is encouraging people across Australia to reflect more deeply on the practice of discernment.

In his paper, entitled “A Journey of Discernment”, Archbishop Costelloe begins by examining the genesis of the Plenary Council, retraces the journey so far and offers insights into the period leading up to the assemblies in 2021 and 2022, as well as the implementation phase beyond.

In the paper, which was published today on the Plenary Council website, Archbishop Costelloe explains the “three fundamental fidelities which need to always be in play, much like a juggler needs to keep three balls in the air and not allow one of them to fall to the ground”.

“Those three fidelities are: fidelity to God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, made known to us in the Scriptures, and pre-eminently in the four canonical gospels, as those Scriptures are lived and believed in within the community of faith; fidelity to the ongoing presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church over the last 2,000 years in fulfilment of the promise of Jesus that the Holy Spirit would lead the disciples into the fullness of the truth (cf John 16:13); and fidelity to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church, and the world, today, speaking to us in the signs of the times (the concrete circumstances of our individual and communal experience) as they are interpreted in the light of the gospel (Gaudium et Spes 4).”

Click here to download the paper.

Archbishop Costelloe introduces the paper in the video below.

Unpacking the Thematic Discernment Papers

To support ongoing engagement with the Plenary Council within local Church communities, including parishes, schools, ministries and families, a new reflection guide has been developed to encourage people’s reception of the six Thematic Discernment Papers released at Pentecost.

The guide invites people to pray, consider one of the six papers, enter into contemplative dialogue and even provide their written response to the paper. People are asked to think about what resonates with them in the paper, what challenges them and how their local community might respond to the invitations and challenges.

Click here to download the reflection guide.

Document reviews Church governance in Australia

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia have published a review of parish and diocesan governance and management that could provide important discussion points for the Plenary Council.

The Church’s Implementation Advisory Group oversaw the development of the report, The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia. The report runs to 208 pages and includes 86 recommendations.

Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the report “makes an important and substantial contribution to the life and mission of the Church in Australia”.

The Bishops Conference will discuss the report at its biannual plenary meeting in November. Some of the issues will have national relevance, while others are best addressed at the local level.

“Equally, many of the issues will be best considered during the upcoming Plenary Council and what will follow from the Council in each diocese,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“I encourage anyone who wishes to read The Light from the Southern Cross to start with the accompanying reading guide … and read the whole report, rather than just the recommendations.”

Click here to access the reading guide and the full report.

New Bishop of Port Pirie appointed

Pope Francis has appointed a new bishop for the South Australian regional Diocese of Port Pirie.

Fr Karol Kulczycki SDS served in Western Australia for 20 years before returning to Poland just over two years ago to take up a post within his religious congregation. He served in parish ministry, as a vocations director and as a college chaplain while in Australia.

He will become the 12th bishop of the diocese, which was earlier known as Port Augusta. It is one of the largest dioceses in Australia. As the Bishop of Port Pirie, Bishop-Elect Kulczycki will be a Plenary Council delegate.

Click here to read more about the new bishop.

Men urged to take active role in Church

A national gathering of Catholic men delivered virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions has heard that the decision to hold a Plenary Council in Australia is a sign that the Church wants to improve and renew itself.

More than 850 men across the country, as well as some men overseas, participated in the event, which was the first of its kind sponsored by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. The Conference has previously held a number of events for Catholic women, young people, clergy, lay pastoral ministers and a number of other groups within the Church.

Robert Falzon, one of the event’s organisers and founder of the MEN Alive ministry, said one of the big considerations for the Church in Australia when considering its renewal is the presence — or absence — of Catholic men.

“Fastest diminishing demographic in the Church is male,” he said, especially referring to 20- to 40-year-old men.

“And everybody nods their head when I say that because you look at your parish and you nod your head and you say, ‘Where are they?’”

Click here to read more about the Catholic Men’s Gathering.

Church events over the coming weeks

Social Justice Sunday: The Catholic Church in Australia will mark Social Justice Sunday this weekend, August 30. The tradition of publishing an annual statement on a critical matter facing the Church and the nation dates back to the 1940s. This year, the statement focuses on mental health — an important issue that has taken on new relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more and access the statement here.

Child Protection Sunday: The Church in Australia marks Child Protection Sunday on the second Sunday of September. The day seeks to acknowledge the immense damage caused by the sexual abuse of children, including by priests, religious and lay people within Catholic contexts. It makes a commitment to practices and protocols that create and maintain safe environments for all people, especially children and other people who are at risk. It invites people to pray for those harmed by abuse directly and indirectly. Click here to find out more and access resources.

Migrant and Refugee Sunday: Pope Francis has selected “Like Jesus Christ, forced to flee” as the theme for the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated on September 27. His reflections originate in the experience of Jesus Christ and his parents as displaced persons and refugees. To read Pope Francis’ full message, please click here.

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