Welcome to PlenaryPost
The contribution of more than 220,000 people from across the country during the Listening and Dialogue phase of the Plenary Council set the foundation for the journey towards the Council’s assemblies. But there was a group that was planting the seeds of this historic journey even earlier.
The Plenary Council’s executive committee was formed in 2017 to advise the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council and the Facilitation Team. The group, drawn from across the country, was pivotal in creating resources and processes that have helped us get to this point. The committee recently completed its work, but the legacy of the members’ work will live on through the unfolding of the Council and beyond.
Keep reading for more on the executive committee and for updates on the ongoing Plenary Council journey.
“Take fresh courage” a good Plenary Council exhortation
by Marion Gambin RSJ
Greetings to all of you in these days of finding our way into the light from the dark COVID months of uncertainty as together we face the challenge to hold on to the God of hope.
In an October CathNews item, I was delighted to read of Pope Francis’ foreword to a recent publication in which he encourages laity to “take a step forward” in carrying out the Church’s mission. He goes on to say that “The time is now. The mission of the laity is not a privilege of a few, and it involves total dedication.” Further on, he calls us, as he has so many times, to be “a more synodal and outgoing Church”.
These words of Pope Francis resonated with me because in the past two months the Facilitation Team has met several times with the Plenary Council Local Coordinators Network from across Australia. It has been such a privilege to engage in conversation with them about how the Plenary Council journey continues to unfold in their local diocese. These 65 coordinators have been working away at the “grassroots” to encourage the participation of all in our discernment journey towards the first Council assembly and beyond. In this edition of the Plenary Post you will be able to read of many “good news stories” that the local coordinators have shared with us.
Meanwhile, the Facilitation Team has also been connecting with the instrumentum laboris (working paper) writing team as a draft of this document continues to take shape and we move towards another milestone in the Plenary Council journey. As well as this, the Facilitation Team has recently been engaged in generating a list of possible facilitators who will have a significant role at the two assemblies as they use their skills to work with the delegates in the discernment process.
With that in mind, if you haven’t yet taken up the opportunity to use the guide for reflecting on the six Thematic Discernment papers, I encourage you to do so.
On October 17 we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Mary MacKillop’s canonisation. The theme of the anniversary was “Take Fresh Courage”, which is so fitting for our Church, our country and our world at this time. So, let us do just that — “Take fresh courage” — as we continue to trust that the Spirit will lead us to be open to what God is asking of us.
Blessings of peace,
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…
Can I pray for the success of the Plenary Council?
Yes, you can. And we’d be most grateful if you did. The Plenary Council prayer was composed to coincide with the opening of the Plenary Council process at Pentecost 2018, but it will guide the multi-year journey towards the final session in July 2022.
Dialogue in the modern age
From Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti
Approaching, speaking, listening, looking at, coming to know and understand one another, and to find common ground: all these things are summed up in the one word “dialogue”. If we want to encounter and help one another, we have to dialogue.
There is no need for me to stress the benefits of dialogue. I have only to think of what our world would be like without the patient dialogue of the many generous persons who keep families and communities together. Unlike disagreement and conflict, persistent and courageous dialogue does not make headlines, but quietly helps the world to live much better than we imagine.
Dialogue is often confused with something quite different: the feverish exchange of opinions on social networks, frequently based on media information that is not always reliable. These exchanges are merely parallel monologues. They may attract some attention by their sharp and aggressive tone. But monologues engage no one, and their content is frequently self-serving and contradictory.
More on Fratelli Tutti
In his new encyclical, Pope Francis imagines societies that are more caring and more focused on helping those in need.
In the lengthy and wide-ranging encyclical released on October 4, Pope Francis says the current COVID-19 pandemic makes it “all the more urgent that we rethink our styles of life”.
“Once this health crisis passes, our worst response would be to plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation,” Francis writes in the opening chapter, which addresses the “dark clouds” the Pope says he sees hanging over the world.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge cautioned that while the Pope’s critique of people’s behaviour can seem like it is directed at others, everyone needs to reflect on their own actions.
“In this country we may be tempted to think that the Pope is talking about elsewhere, but he’s not. True, he’s talking about the whole world – but he’s also talking about us,” the archbishop said.
“Pope Francis offers a grand yet simple vision of human interconnectedness. We’re all connected to each other in ways we scarcely imagine. Our task now is to work out what this means in practice as we look beyond the pandemic.
Members of the Plenary Council executive committee during a 2018 meeting in Melbourne with members of the Facilitation Team and Archbishops Mark Coleridge and Timothy Costelloe SDB
Archbishop Costelloe thanks key advisory group
Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has paid tribute to a group of key advisers that has supported the Council over the past three years.
The Plenary Council executive committee first met in 2017, having been selected following a national process to invite people with a variety of gifts and backgrounds to work together. It advised the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council and supported the Facilitation Team.
The group met in person for the final time in February this year, and its work formally concluded this week.
“In February 2018, as we were charting a course forward, it was this group of individuals that helped us discern the question that continues to guide the Council: What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?,” Archbishop Costelloe recalled.
“As I’ve said elsewhere, the evolution of that question was not straightforward and it was the result of the human insights in that room and, without doubt, some divine inspiration.”
Archbishop Costelloe said he expected some members of the executive committee might continue to play a role in the Council, including as theological advisers at the assemblies.
More dioceses hold delegate commissioning services
A number of Catholic dioceses have held commissioning ceremonies for their Plenary Council delegates in recent weeks, using the time around the original opening date for the first Council assembly as a catalyst for the events.
As reported last month, the Diocese of Darwin held its commissioning during its Chrism Mass on September 29.
In the Archdiocese of Perth, twelve delegates were commissioned on October 4 in a Mass during which Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB reflected on the work of reform undertaken by St Francis of Assisi — whose feast day it was.
Reflecting on St Francis’ mission to “go and rebuild my Church”, Archbishop Costelloe said the Plenary Council delegates, including those from Perth, “will be engaged in the same task – not to tear down the Lord’s Church and create one of our own but, rather, work with the power of God’s Spirit to restore and renew the Church and enable it to be all that the Lord is calling it, calling us, to be”.
The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle also held its commissioning on October 4. The diocese will be represented at the Council assemblies by Bishop Bill Wright, vicar-general Fr Andrew Doohan, Bernadette Gibson and Helen Belcher.
At the Mass during which the commissioning took place, Bishop Wright spoke about the ongoing need for prayer and for thanksgiving.
The Diocese of Armidale commissioning was held the following weekend, on October 11. Lay delegates Alison Hamilton and Karl Schmude will join Msgr Ted Wilkes, the vicar-general, and Bishop Michael Kennedy in representing the country New South Wales diocese.
Bishop Kennedy said he was “greatly encouraged by the number and quality of people who submitted expressions of interest” to become the diocese’s Plenary Council delegates.
Of Mr Schmude and Ms Hamilton, Bishop Kennedy said “both have the ability to listen carefully and to speak their mind honestly and respectfully. They will be excellent delegates”.
Exploring best practice in pastoral governance
More than 230 people registered for a recent webinar looking at best practices of pastoral governance within the Oceania region. The event, held earlier this month, was hosted by the Pastoral Ministry Network (formerly known as NAPPA) and the Mission Planners Network of Oceania, with support from the Diocese of Parramatta.
It was noted that in the time of COVID-19, the need for effective community engagement and innovative planning for mission was as important as ever — if not more so.
“The need for good structures and processes in our parishes and dioceses is not an adjunct to the work we do, but rather empowers communities to bring to life Christ’s mission in a safe way,” said Fr Gregor Jacobs of the Mt Druitt parish in the Parramatta Diocese.
The videos prepared for the webinar can be accessed on YouTube:
- Exploring Best Practices of Pastoral Governance – The Why and Who (10 mins)
- Exploring Best Practices of Pastoral Governance – The What and How (12 mins)
- Exploring Best Practices of Pastoral Governance – The Maitland-Newcastle Story (12 mins)
- Exploring Best Practices of Pastoral Governance – The Christchurch Story (13 mins)
Calling the future women leaders in the Church
Applications close this week for an Australian women’s leadership program that has been held up as an international exemplar for supporting the formation of Church leaders.
“Leadership for Mission”, a collaboration of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Australian Catholic University and Catholic Mission, is a postgraduate program for women aged 25 to 35. It is delivered through three residential sessions over an 18-month period.
Designed by women and for women, Leadership for Mission provides educational and formative encounters within the context of an academic and collaborative learning environment.
Applications close this week. Click here for more information.
Pope Francis has also been encouraging and praying for additional leadership opportunities for women within the Church. It has been one of the Pope’s prayer intentions for the month of October.
Sydney Archdiocese looking to “Go Make Disciples”
Sydney parishes and other Eucharistic communities are being invited to participate in a prayer campaign with a strong evangelisation focus.
The campaign comes ahead of the launch of Sydney’s new Archdiocesan Mission Plan, “Go Make Disciples”, to be launched by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP on December 12 — the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
An initiative of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, “Go Make Disciples” seeks renewal of all of Sydney’s parishes as places of encounter with the living Christ – especially in the Eucharist. More than 40,000 prayer cards were distributed during October, inviting all to pray for the success of the Mission Plan.
Church events over the coming weeks
Education symposium: Catholic education is one of the Church’s most significant ministries, with more than 760,000 students learning in Catholic schools across the country. The National Catholic Education Commission is hosting an online symposium “Faith in the Future” tomorrow (October 30), which will feature key education leaders, as well as the Commonwealth Education Minister and Shadow Minister. Click here for more information.
Plenary Meeting: The biannual Plenary Meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference will be held from November 23-27 using video-conferencing technology. The bishops’ many topics of discussion will include the ongoing preparation for the Plenary Council assemblies. Please pray for the bishops in their deliberations about the Church in Australia.
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