“For more than four years, we have sensed the power of prayer and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the work of the [Plenary] Council. As we move towards the development, consideration and approval of key proposals to renew the Church in Australia, the need for prayer has never been greater.”
Those are some of the words of Bishop Shane Mackinlay, the Plenary Council vice-president, as he reflected on the importance of prayer for the Council. He was speaking about the Walking in the Spirit resources, which were launched in time for Easter Sunday and with the hope they can accompany the Members and the wider Catholic community in the weeks leading to the second general assembly.
There are more details below on the prayer campaign, as well as other updates on the Plenary Council, the Synod of Bishops and the life of the Church in Australia.
As we move towards the second assembly, the Plenary Council website continues to be a useful place to stay up-to-date with what’s happening and where we are walking together.
by Lana Turvey-Collins
This week, I commence parental leave and formally hand over the reins of Plenary Council Facilitator to Marion Gambin RSJ – who needs no introduction to you all! Marion has been an incredibly strong part of the Facilitation Team and co-leading our work for nearly two years. She will already be a familiar face to you I am sure, but in these final few months leading up to the Second General Assembly of the Plenary Council, could I please ask all of you to intensify your prayerful accompaniment for the whole team – Marion, Peter and Olivia – as they collaborate with the cast of hundreds who are working diligently to continue the discernment and the journey of the Plenary Council.
I want to offer a deep thank you to all of you who have engaged with the journey of the Plenary Council over the last four years – particularly pre-COVID, when I travelled to so many parts of our beautiful country. I was welcomed with cups of tea, open hearts, stories of faith and struggle, joy and hope, and was challenged by all sorts of questions and ideas.
This time in my role as Facilitator has primarily been one of supporting and encouraging those kinds of conversations to be held, to create time and space for working in God’s mission – together, with one another. Through sharing our stories, my hope is that we find bridges to cross divides and discover new pathways forward which sometimes can only be revealed by walking into the darkness. I thank you all for the privilege of being invited into the sacred space of your stories. I have learned so much and have been changed by each encounter.
I wish you all the very best for the coming months leading to the Second General Assembly and look forward to the fruits borne of our communal discernment. I will keep you all, and the Members of the Plenary Council, in prayer.
Yours in Mission,
Lana and the Facilitation Team
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?
Since the arrival of COVID-19 in Australia in early 2020, the Plenary Council has been responsive to health and government guidelines and restrictions. The limits on travel and gatherings led to the postponement of the assemblies, with the first assembly moved from October 2020 to October 2021. In early 2021, it became clear that a face-to-face gathering for all members would be impossible for the first assembly, which was scheduled to be held in Adelaide. That assembly was moved to a multi-modal format, with all members participating from their own devices, but members in some locations were able to gather for liturgy and fellowship.
The second assembly will be held in Sydney from July 4-9, 2022. A COVID-19 safety plan is being reviewed constantly and will align with all relevant health and government guidelines for the city and state at the time of the assembly. The safety and wellbeing of all members is a key consideration in the planning for the assembly.
The Church too, in her entirety, has undertaken a synodal process, and counts on your contribution. Let us recall, in this regard, that synodality is not a simple discussion. Nor is it an “adjective”. Never adjectivise the substantiality of life.
Nor is synodality the search for the consensus of the majority; this is what a parliament does, this is what is done in politics. It is not a plan, a programme to be implemented. No. It is a style to be assumed, in which the main protagonist is the Holy Spirit, who is expressed first and foremost in the Word of God, read, meditated upon and shared together.
Let us take the concrete image of the cross: it has a vertical arm and a horizontal arm. The horizontal arm is our life, our history, our humanity. The vertical arm is the Lord who comes to visit us with his Word and his Spirit, to give meaning to what we are living. To focus on Jesus’ cross, as Saint Paul says (cf. Gal 2:19), means accepting to place my life under his gaze, to accept this encounter between my poor humanity and his transforming divinity. Please, always leave an important place for the Word of God in the life of your groups. And likewise, leave space for prayer, for the inner life, for worship.
— From the Address of Pope Francis to the Delegation of the Catholic Action Movement of France. Click here to read the full address.
Catholics across the country are being invited to participate in a new prayer pilgrimage as the Church journeys towards the second assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.
The “Walking in the Spirit” pilgrimage has been prepared to encourage individuals, families, parishes, schools and other ministries to keep the Plenary Council in their prayers.
The pilgrimage starts on Easter Sunday, April 17, and leads up to the opening of the second – and final – assembly on Sunday, July 3.
Sophy Morley, the co-chair of the Liturgy Working Group for the Plenary Council, said the “Walking in the Spirit” resources can be incorporated easily into existing prayer and liturgical contexts.
“Whether it’s for the celebration of the Eucharist, morning liturgy in a school or an addition to one’s nightly prayer routine, these resources will help keep the Plenary Council in our spiritual focus,” she said.
Dioceses across Australia are currently preparing reports on the local consultation phase of the global Synod on Synodality, which will shape the development of a national synthesis to be sent to the Holy See.
Between October and March, individuals and groups were invited to reflect on and respond to a series of questions across the Synod of Bishops’ three key themes: communion, participation and mission.
When the online portal for submissions closed in March, more than 1100 responses had been received through that platform on behalf of thousands of people. Dioceses also received submissions directly from groups and individuals.
Trudy Dantis, the national coordinator of the Synod of Bishops and director of the National Centre for Pastoral Research, said the various sources of information will allow for meaningful reports to be prepared.
“With respondents asked to submit no more than 250 words through the online portal, the reports we have provided to dioceses range from a few pages to dozens of pages,” she said.
“When you add the significant content that was gathered during the Plenary Council’s initial Listening and Dialogue phase, which was also collated at the diocesan level, there is rich material for each diocese to draw into their Synod of Bishops reports.”
As the second assembly of the Plenary Council approaches, Catholic Religious Australia is preparing for the third and final “conversation” as part of its exploration of the Light from the Southern Cross report.
The online event, Accountability & Transparency, will be held on May 18, featuring Susan Pascoe AM and Claire Victory as the keynote speakers.
“Accountability and transparency need to be reflected in the administrative and governance practices of all Church bodies. They are critical to promoting co-responsible governance for the Church,” said Susan Pascoe AM, Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia and a co-author of the report.
Ms Victory, national president of the St Vincent de Paul Society and member of the Plenary Council, says she is excited about the opportunity to be part of the discussion.
Australia’s Catholic bishops have called for a shakeup that focuses the country’s politics on the common good of all, including – and especially – those who struggle to participate in the community.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said no one political party fully embodies Catholic social teaching. The bishops are, however, offering an election statement to encourage Catholics and people of good will to reflect on the good they can do for their community by using their vote for the good of all.
Archbishop Coleridge said “we all long for what Pope Francis calls ‘a better kind of politics, one truly at the service of the common good’”.
“This ‘better’ politics pursues the common good of all Australians by recognising the dignity of every individual and the solidarity we all share as a national community,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
A great way to reconnect with or enter more deeply into the Plenary Council journey is to read some of the key documents from the past four years. They capture how far the People of God in Australia have travelled in that time. Documents you might wish to read again — or read for the first time — include:
You can find other key documents, including the six Thematic Discernment Papers, on the Plenary Council website.