Welcome to PlenaryPost
All the years of preparation for a Plenary Council didn’t necessarily prepare the Church in Australia for what the first general assembly would become — an online gathering, with most Members joining the assembly from their own home, helping discern how the Church can be renewed in and through Christ.
The intensive planning in the final months, though, as the move online became inevitable, ensured a successful assembly could be held for the Members, but also invited the People of God into some aspects of the assembly, mindful this is a journey for the whole Church. And people took up that invitation in the tens of thousands, watching the livestreams of morning plenary sessions, the online Masses and joining the online conversations and reading and watching other content sharing the story of the assembly and the Council.
The celebration of the Council is a nine-month journey, though, and after a period of refreshment after the intensity of the assembly, work has recommenced in planning for the second assembly in July 2022, as well as helping the work of discernment continue during what’s been described as a time of germination or fermentation.
Many stories were written over the course of the first assembly, some of which can be found on the In the Media page on the Plenary Council website.
Read on for updates from the first assembly and news of related Church events and please continue to pray for the Plenary Council.
Entering the “in between time” of the Plenary Council journey
by Sr Marion Gambin RSJ
The first general assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia is over, and we are now in the “in between time” — still on the journey of discernment, towards the second assembly in July 2022.
The “in between time” can offer us many opportunities: time for the Members to complete an evaluation of their experience of the first assembly; time for us to read the many messages of affirmation and challenge coming into the Plenary Council email address; time to share with you the outcomes of the first assembly process, developed by the Members through a deep listening to the Spirit and listening to one another; time to give thanks for the prayer you offered, the thousands who watched the daily livestreamed celebrations of the Eucharist and plenary sessions and various other podcasts and media engagements; and time to consider what we learnt from the first assembly so we can continue to plan for the second.
There was never any doubt that attempting to hold the assembly online was going to be a challenge! And it was! However, because we had such a wonderful Tech Team, all volunteers, supporting the Members and staff every step of the way, there were few glitches that held up the process. At the same time, it’s important that you know there were many, many volunteers working very hard behind the scenes to make sure that everything went according to plan. These same volunteers and the various committees are currently reviewing their role for this “in between time” and contributing their ideas to the organising of the second assembly. The hope is, of course, that the second assembly will be in person in Sydney, so that Members and staff alike can be supportive of one another, in between sessions, and during Eucharist, prayer experiences and mealtimes.
For those of you who may have missed the various livestreamed sessions, these are still available on the Plenary Council web site.
You may like to particularly watch the October 9 morning session and the final reports from each of the small groups, as well as Archbishop Timothy Costelloe’s closing address. The Members also approved a concluding statement from the first assembly, which ends with these words of encouragement and invitation:
“With the closing of this First Assembly, the Plenary Council process now enters a time of prayer, reflection, maturation, and development. This will involve continuing reflection by the Members of the Council, and consultation with the wider Church community, as we develop propositions for presentation to the Second Assembly of the Council next July. This will be coordinated with Australian preparations for the 2023 Synod, For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”
So, I welcome you all into this Spirit-filled “in between time”. May it continue to bring you hope for the renewal of our Catholic 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…
Why are we having a Plenary Council?
There are many reasons for having a Plenary Council for the Catholic Church in Australia: Pope Francis has invited the local Church to dialogue; the contemporary society of Australia has changed significantly; and the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse has been a significant and influential event that requires deep consideration and response.
When the Australian Catholic Bishops announced the decision to hold a Plenary Council, Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge said that “the Church is not the presence in our society it once was. We need to take a measure of that and make decisions accordingly. The culture in which we have to proclaim the Gospel is very different to what it was even 20 or 30 years ago.”
The journey is taking place over several years in order to give the Catholic community in Australia time to listen, dialogue and discern with one another and, guided by the Holy Spirit, about the future, the role and relevance of the Catholic Church in Australia.