Welcome to PlenaryPost
There was a sense of extra energy in parishes over Easter, having lived through the first suspension of public Masses in decades last year, including during Holy Week. Some dioceses used the occasion to commission Plenary Council members, with large numbers of people gathered for Mass.
Dioceses and parishes are also finding ways to engage with the Plenary Council’s working document Continuing the Journey. In the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, for example, online consultations are taking place next month in each of the four deaneries. Others are plotting their own path, seeking to reflect on and discuss the important document, including by listening to podcasts recorded with the writing team for the working document.
There are plenty of other nuggets of information below, including an upcoming prayer campaign and details on events — past and future. Keep an eye out for editions of PlenaryPost on the last Thursday of each month through 2021. Send suggestions on local content that can be included to firstname.lastname@example.org
Remembering our journey: Preparation, Celebration, Implementation
by Lana Turvey-Collins
At the beginning of the Plenary Council journey, we talked often about there being three stages to having a council: Preparation, Celebration and Implementation. The months between now and October are the final months of our “Preparation” and they are passing quickly!
The first assembly will commence the “Celebration” of the Fifth Plenary Council in Australia, a celebration that continues for 10 months. The first assembly (October 3-10, 2021), the second assembly (July 3-9, 2022) and the months in between the two assemblies are the time we have as the Church in Australia to address the agenda, discern together the way forward, come to decisions and celebrate the Council.
Since we were last in contact with you, there have been a great many people working together on the practical arrangements for the first assembly happening in October. As you would already be aware, we are no longer all gathering in Adelaide; rather we are gathering in five locations across Australia.
The members of the Plenary Council will gather at a local “hub” and participate in the Plenary Council from there. It is still one Plenary Council for the Church in Australia, but the members, advisors, observers, guests and staff of the assembly will be located in one of five hubs. The hubs are gatherings of the provinces, so there will be one hub each for Queensland, New South Wales (including the ACT), Victoria (including Tasmania), Northern Territory and South Australia (combined) and one for Western Australia.
It has most definitely increased our workload to organise five locations rather than one, but it is paramount that in this COVID-19 era we keep everyone safe and healthy and adapt accordingly. We are also working on how all of the faithful can pray with and connect with the experience of the first assembly and will provide more detail on this in coming months.
The program and agenda for the Plenary Council have been at the forefront of the minds and hearts of the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council and will be discussed and decided upon during the upcoming plenary meeting of the Bishops Conference, which starts next week. It has been a deeply prayerful, collaborative and inspiring experience to be a part of seeing the agenda developing and we look forward to sharing it with all of the People of God in the not-too-distant future.
It continues the journey of discernment that we are on, and I am confident that it will provide a challenging framework for the members of the Plenary Council and all of the Catholic Church in Australia to pray about, talk about, hear the voice of the Spirit and respond in action for mission.
For now, I encourage you to keep reading. Some of the core documents of preparation for the Plenary Council include the six thematic discernment papers and the working document (instrumentum laboris) Continuing the Journey, as well as The Light from the Southern Cross governance review report and the bishops’ response to this.
We hope that you keep using the Listening & Dialogue and Listening & Discernment small group guides to speak with and listen to one another, and come together to pray the Plenary Council prayer which seeks the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit on our missionary journey as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Yours in mission,
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…
How will you ensure the assemblies are COVID-safe?
The Plenary Council’s Facilitation Team and Steering Committee have been adapting to the fast-moving requirements of COVID-19 since it arrived in Australia. That included the decision to postpone the assemblies by 12 months, and then employ a “multi-modal” format for the first assembly, combining in-person and online engagement.
Each of the hubs used across the country, if COVID restrictions in October allow such gatherings, will have their own personalised COVID-safe plan. That will include adhering with restrictions on the number of people in spaces, physical distancing and other relevant advice from local government and health authorities. Implementing and adhering to the COVID-safe plan is part of the Plenary Council’s duty of care, including to any vulnerable members participating.
Reinvigorating the practice of synodality
by Sr Marion Gambin RSJ
Nathalie Becquart is a French religious and member of the Congregation of Xavieres. Earlier this year, Pope Francis appointed her as one of two undersecretaries to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops – the first time a woman has been appointed to this role! She recently gave a webinar presentation on the topic of “Pope Francis and Synodality”. Click here to listen to her presentation.
Many of you may have already purchased and read Pope Francis’ recent publication Let Us Dream – The Path to a Better Future. The book is written in conversational style and Francis offers three steps to a better future for our church and world: A Time to See; A Time to Choose; and a Time to Act. I would encourage you to buy a copy.
Archbishops talk Plenary Council on global video call
Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge have participated in a webinar on the Council with a British Catholic publication.
The archbishops spoke with The Tablet‘s Christopher Lamb, covering Australia’s Plenary Council journey and the wider question of synodality in the Church.
Archbishop Costelloe said the process of discernment, which is at the heart of the Plenary Council, is not something Catholics in Australia are necessarily familiar with.
“It takes careful listening,” he said. “It takes a lot of humility and a readiness to let go of a lot of my cherished ideas, perhaps, because I might be learning something from listening to someone else.”
Archbishop Coleridge said a plenary council is “a moment of decision-making, legislation…and decrees. And these would be geared to charting a very particular path into the future for the Church in this country”.
Ballarat members commissioned during Holy Week
The Diocese of Ballarat used its Mass of the Oils as an opportune moment to commission their Plenary Council members, with the congregation praying for the four diocesan representatives.
Ballarat’s diocesan contingent consists of Bishop Paul Bird CSsR, vicar general Fr Kevin Maloney, Marie Shaddock and Felicity Knobel.
Ballarat priests Msgr Glynn Murphy, representing the Military Ordinariate, and Fr Kevin Lenehan, representing the Catholic Theological College, are also Plenary Council members.
Mrs Shaddock said the commissioning was “a very powerful and moving experience that reinforced the fact that we are representing the whole of the diocese as a ‘community of communities’ as Bishop Paul said in his homily”.
“Standing there as an individual was both humbling yet bolstering in the sense that you were aware of so many other people praying for you,” she said.
Prayer campaign set to ‘Fan the Flame’
Each year during the Plenary Council journey, Pentecost has been a milestone moment — with the publication of documents and the launch of certain initiatives. This year, Pentecost (May 23) will mark the start of a prayer campaign that will build up to the first Plenary Council assembly in October.
The “Fan the Flame” prayer and reflection resource package will be able to be used in a number of settings, including parishes, schools, universities, hospitals and aged care facilities. The material is designed in such a way that it can be adjusted to suit various contexts, but suggestions include reflection experiences, holy hours, music and prayers.
The “Fan the Flame” resources will be posted to the Plenary Council website in the lead-up to Pentecost and shared through Plenary Post next month.
Celebrating 200 years of Catholic education
Australia’s vibrant and faith-filled Catholic education system is currently in the midst of celebrating 200 years since the first Catholic school opened in Parramatta. Today, Catholic schools educate more than 775,000 students in more than 1,750 schools. Tens of thousands more attend early learning centres and Catholic tertiary and adult formation institutions.
A national Mass for the bicentenary is being celebrated simultaneously in cathedrals, churches and schools across the country on May 24, the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians. Mary, under the title Our Lady Help of Christians, was chosen as the Patroness of Australia in 1844.
A number of resources have been developed for diocesan and school communities to assist with their local celebrations, and can be accessed via the 200 years website, which also contains lots of information about the history of Catholic education in Australia.
Broken Bay gathers for formation, commissioning
The Diocese of Broken Bay’s intentional re-engagement with the Plenary Council earlier this month culminated in the commissioning of the diocese’s Council members.
The afternoon of formation, organised by the Evangelisation Broken Bay team, was the first diocesan gathering specifically focused on the Plenary Council since COVID-19. It was an opportunity for prayer, discussion, formation and the presentation of resources, and concluded with Mass and the commissioning of Council members Fr David Ranson, Alison Newell, Raj Rajasingam and Danny Casey, who will join Bishop Anthony Randazzo in attending the Council assemblies.
“As we gather to re-animate our participation in the Plenary Council, we are mindful we are part of a holy communion,” said Bishop Randazzo. “Our local Church is part of the universal Church, and we are one body in Christ.
“The journey towards the Plenary Council has been an engagement in connecting communities of believers from all over Australia. Thus far it has been an exercise of listening.”
Council members reflect on people’s voices
The Diocese of Parramatta’s Plenary Council members are engaging with their fellow Catholics, including those who participated in the Listening and Dialogue phase, as they prepare for the Council’s two assemblies.
Wendy Goonan, one of Parramatta’s members, said she has observed a number of trends that emerged, including in reviewing the responses from fellow Parramatta Catholics. They include concerns about the number of people leaving the Church, decision-making opportunities and the relationship between parishes and schools.
Carol Teodori-Blahut, another Parramatta Plenary Council member, said her hope for the Council “is that whenever or however we meet, we make real human contact; that we see each other as brothers and sisters on a pilgrimage”.
Reform coalition to host series of convocations
Prominent American writer and speaker Sr Joan Chittister OSB will address a convocation of Australian Catholics this weekend via Zoom from the United States.
Sr Joan is the keynote speaker for the first of three upcoming convocations hosted by the Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR). She has for 50 years advocated on behalf of peace, human rights, women’s issues and Church renewal.
ACCCR co-convener Andrea Dean said she expects Sr Joan’s address “will inspire Catholics who are insisting that the Catholic Church, through the Plenary Council process”, respond to the pain caused by the sexual abuse crisis and address greater inclusion for all, especially women and minority groups.
The convocation will take place on Sunday, May 2 at 9am AEST via Zoom. Find out more at the ACCCR website.
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