Welcome to PlenaryPost
There are a number of important and uplifting stories below, including about a couple of milestone moments at Pentecost — the launch of a new prayer campaign and the Council’s formal convocation.
While there is a somewhat inevitable focus on the Plenary Council’s Assemblies, the Council has been and remains a journey of the whole Church in Australia. It is always encouraging to hear about the local initiatives that are underway in various parishes in engaging with the Council, seeking to understand how they can “Listen to what the Spirit is saying” in their own context.
We recently heard about a group of three parishes that have come together to enliven their local communities and to aim to “build confidence and trust in the Church that will ultimately increase the spread of the Gospel”. Another group of parishes has been inviting local conversations through a dedicated website that also captures the key Plenary Council documents. In some dioceses, consultations are taking place about the instrumentum laboris — or working document — for the Council, entitled Continuing the Journey. If you haven’t yet read it, we would encourage you to do so.
Read on for more information on some of the topics mentioned above. And 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
The Holy Spirit is moving amongst us
by Sr Marion Gambin RSJ
“Stories are really important. People in all times and in all places have told stories. They help to shape identity and well-being. They carry religious, moral and ethical codes. They are the glue that hold societies and cultures together. Stories are carriers of our memories and memories are containers of grace. Think of how much our lives are contained and conveyed in stories.”
— Mary Pelligrino CSJ
In the last few weeks, the Facilitation Team has been so inspired by the good news stories, of what is happening in several parishes and dioceses in response to the Spirit moving amongst us. You will be able to read some of these good news stories in this edition of Plenary Post.
Over the last month, the focus for the Facilitation Team has been our involvement in preparing the program for the Members’ formation sessions which will take place across several days in June and July. All Members will be attending a set of four sessions across three days and key to these formation, or preparation, sessions will be an experience of engaging in the discernment process to be used during the Assembly in October.
Everyone will be in breakout groups and discern with other Members from across Australia. Also, during the formation sessions it will be an opportunity for the Members to experience this engagement online and hopefully begin to establish a familiarity with using the online platform of Microsoft Teams.
Meanwhile, we know that there is much activity happening for each of the Hubs to operate in Western Australia (Perth), South Australia/Northern Territory (Adelaide), Victoria/Tasmania (Melbourne), Queensland (Brisbane) and New South Wales/ACT (Sydney). This is where the Members will be geographically located while they engage online, as one Plenary Council Assembly, with all Members from across Australia.
We are now only four months out from the first Assembly. We call on the Spirit of Pentecost to continue to inspire us all to tell our stories and listen to others tell theirs as we encourage each other to be hopeful for the future of our Church in Australia.
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…
Five locations, one Plenary Council Assembly. How?
COVID-19 permitting, the approximately 285 Members of the Plenary Council will gather in person in a Hub in the capital city of the state they live in. Northern Territory-based Members will join the South Australia Hub, ACT Members will join the New South Wales Hub and Tasmanian Members will join the Victoria Hub. This is for community-building, for sharing meals and praying together.
The Plenary Council Assembly program, though, will be one and the same for all Hubs, albeit time differences will require some adjustments. Members will gather online for several hours of “shared” time, while liturgies, social gatherings and other encounters will happen locally.
‘Connecting communities of believers’
by Bishop Anthony Randazzo of Broken Bay
In our Church of Broken Bay, we have gathered to re-animate our participation in the Plenary Council because we are part of a holy communion. Our local Church is part of the Universal Church. […]
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. “Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” is repeated seven times in the Book of Revelation. This has become the predominant guide for the Australian Catholic Bishops when we called the Plenary Council.
There is a novelty in the Fifth Plenary Council that was not part of the first four in the history of the Catholic Church in Australia. The novelty is born from the Second Vatican Council and the 1983 Code of Canon Law. For the first time, the Bishop Members of the Council will be joined by Delegates who have been called to the Council. Among the delegates are lay women and men – married, single, and religious. The delegates also include clergy from the local Churches.
One of the aspirations of the Second Vatican Council was the engagement of all the baptised in the life of holiness and the mission of evangelisation. That holy Synod, held from 1962 to 1965, has given rise to the spirit of synodality in our Post-Conciliar Church.
— From Bishop Randazzo’s homily at the Mass of Commissioning for Broken Bay’s Plenary Council Members.
Prayer campaign launched for Council journey
A new campaign launched at Pentecost seeks to reignite the prayerful journey towards the Plenary Council’s first Assembly, which will take place in October.
The “Fan the Flame” resources were developed by a national liturgical committee that is supporting the Plenary Council. It builds off other months-long prayer campaigns and seeks to cater for the needs of people in all Catholic contexts.
The campaign material has resources for each week from Pentecost until the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – the final weekend before the first assembly of the Council. The materials include multimedia files, weekly reflections, bulletin notices and suggested musical choices.
“These are simple – yet profound and meaningful – ways in which parishes, Catholic schools, aged care facilities, universities, hospitals and families may journey in prayer with the Plenary Council,” Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said.
Sr Kerry Willison RSM, who is leading the national liturgy committee, said the committee hoped that “through these resources, all people will find ways to enter more deeply into their own prayerful preparation for this national event, and to pray for those with special roles during the Council assemblies”.
Bishops Conference formally convokes Council
One of the major final steps towards the Plenary Council has been taken, with the Bishops Conference formally convoking the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.
The bishops approved the decree of convocation at their plenary meeting earlier this month, with Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge signing the decree on Pentecost Sunday.
The convocation follows the approval of the Council’s statutes and regulatory norms, the approval and February publication of the Council’s working document Continuing the Journey and the recent approval of the Council agenda.
“The journey of the Council began long ago and this is just another step on the way towards the first assembly in the first week on October,” Archbishop Coleridge said after signing the decree.
“And on Pentecost Sunday we have invoked the Holy Spirit upon the entire journey of the Plenary Council but in particular upon the first assembly – to which we now move.”
Photo and video courtesy of the Archdiocese of Brisbane.
Maitland-Newcastle holds second synod session
The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle held the second of three sessions of its Synod last weekend, drawing together more than 300 members, participants and observers at six sites.
Teresa Brierley, director of pastoral ministries for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, described the landmark event as a wonderful experience, with people gathering to reflect the movement of the Spirit and to affirm the “Five Foundations” as the spiritual framework: Identity and Community; Worship and Prayer; Formation and Education; Mission and Outreach; Leadership and Structure.
“I found the day to be very prayerful as we invoked the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us the courage to imagine what might be while being attentive to our past,” she said.
“I recognise that what we are being called to is being revealed as we walk together. This is not a comfortable journey for many because it involves trusting other fellow pilgrims along the way.”
According to the MN News website, following this second session, the Diocese will adopt “Statements of Intent” regarding desired outcomes emerging from parishioner feedback.
At the third session this November, there will be voting on a variety of “Proposals for Action”. If adopted, these proposals become recommendations to Bishop Bill Wright for his consideration as possible actions appropriate to the needs of the diocese.
Vatican announces new approach to global synods
An international Synod of Bishops on the concept of synodality has been postponed until 2023, but will take on a new flavour with the event to unfold in three phases: A diocesan phase; A continental phase; A universal phase.
In an announcement last week, the Vatican said the three-stage process “will help to make possible a true listening to the People of God to ensure the participation of all in the synodal process”.
“It is not just an event, but also a process that involves in synergy the People of God, the College of Bishops and the Bishop of Rome, each according to their proper function,” the communique said.
Pope Francis is expected to inaugurate the diocesan phase of the synod on October 9-10 this year, with bishops around the world to open that phase the following weekend.
Planning continues for Adelaide assembly
About 400 people are expected to attend Adelaide’s Diocesan Assembly in September to reflect on the life of the local Church community, in conjunction with ongoing discernment for the Plenary Council taking place at a national level.
In a video inviting all parishes and migrant communities to contribute to the assembly’s preparation, Archbishop Patrick O’Regan said the assembly will be “us sitting down as a family, talking about what’s really important, maybe airing our grievances, thinking about what we can do to make a difference in our world today”.
“This is not just something where we’re looking inwardly, we’re trying to look outwardly…as missionary disciples,” he says.
“And we all have a part to play in that. Together we can make a difference.”
The assembly will take place on September 17 and 18.
Online conference seeks to grow faith communities
An online event in July will invite people in Australia and beyond to think about how faith communities can emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for the first Assembly of the Plenary Council.
Alive in the Spirit will feature more than 30 on-demand workshops exploring areas such as best practice for RCIA, how to engage beyond the margins of existing faith communities, planning for mission and renewal, supporting pastoral care, social justice initiatives and much more.
Keynote speakers include Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins, Boston College professor Fr Richard Lennan and Leisa Anslinger, associate director of pastoral vitality for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Alive in the Spirit is a joint initiative of the Pastoral Ministry Network, Christian Initiation Australia Network and the Mission Planners Network Oceania.
Perth Archdiocese unpacks discernment themes
West Australian educator and Plenary Council Member for the Archdiocese of Perth Gemma Thomson has invited a gathering to consider how the Church can be a more “humble, healing and merciful” place.
Ms Thomson spoke as part of a series of talks on the six national themes for discernment for the Plenary Council that emerged from the Listening and Dialogue phase of preparing for the Council’s assemblies. Papers were prepared on each of the six themes.
According to a report from the Archdiocese of Perth’s website, Ms Thomson said the paper on the “Humble, Healing and Merciful” theme encompasses much of the pain experienced in the body of the Church in Australia, providing the analogy of “pain has many faces” that resonates with Ms Thomson because it gives pain a human element.
“Sitting uncomfortably in a place of pain is not what we would ever opt to do willingly, but instead, it is something that we are called to do to move forward,” she said.
“Healing cannot occur if we are not willing to acknowledge, accept and work together in the hope that a new Church can emerge from these current times.”
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