Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB says the six discernment papers for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia signify the latest milestone as the Church considers its present circumstances and discerns its future. Six Discernment and Writing Groups, one each for the six national themes for discernment that emerged from the Council’s Listening and Dialogue phase, were tasked with writing papers to bring some major themes and issues into focus.“The papers are the fruits of communal discernment. The aim of the discernment process was to draw upon the lived faith and experiences of more than 220,000 Australians, the living tradition of the Church, sacred Scripture, papal teachings and additional insights from outside the Church,” said Archbishop Costelloe, the Plenary Council president.Archbishop Costelloe said the papers are an important contribution to the Church in Australia’s ongoing discernment towards the Plenary Council.“While not the final word on the six thematic areas which emerged from the Listening and Dialogue process, I encourage everyone to receive them in the spirit of faith and discernment with which they have been written,” he said.“They both invite and challenge us to continue to ‘listen to what the Spirit is saying’.”
The two assemblies for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will be held in Adelaide from October 3-10, 2021, and in Sydney from July 4-9, 2022.
The new dates mean that the celebration of the Plenary Council has effectively moved 12 months from the original plan of a first assembly in October 2020 and a second assembly in June/July 2021.
Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said the confirmation of the specific dates will help in the formulation of a revised program of preparation for Council delegates, who were announced in March, and for the whole Catholic community.
Archbishop Costelloe said the bishops’ preference to hold the second assembly in April 2022, announced last month, had to be revisited.
“The confluence of a number of events in April 2022, including the New South Wales school holidays, Easter in the Latin Rite and Easter in the Eastern Rite, meant that the plan to hold the second assembly then was unworkable,” he said.
Together, we are on a journey of listening to God by listening to one another. We invite all Australians to engage in an open and inclusive process of listening, dialogue and discernment about the future of the Catholic Church in Australia. Your voice is needed – join in! Speak boldly and with passion, listen with an open and humble heart. With faith and guided by God’s Holy Spirit, we journey together, toward the future.
The Plenary Council 2020 is a gathering of the Church in Australia to make decisions for the future. Your voice is important. All people are invited to contribute to the Plenary Council agenda by sharing your experience of faith and of the Church.
See plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au for more information or contact your local Animators; Mark Hall or Margaret Fraser.
Plenary Council Prayer
Come, Holy Spirit of Pentecost.
Come, Holy Spirit of the great South Land.
O God, bless us and unite all your people in Australia and guide us on the pilgrim way of the Plenary Council.
Give us the grace to see your face in one another and to recognise Jesus, our companion on the road.
Give us the courage to tell our stories and to speak boldly of your truth.
Give us ears to listen humbly to each other and a discerning heart to hear what you are saying.
Lead your Church into a hope- filled future, that we may live the joy of the Gospel.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, bread for the journey from age to age.
Welcome to PlenaryPost
With more than 5 million people ticking “Catholic” on the last Australian Census, the Plenary Council was always going to be ambitious in its efforts to connect with and hear from a large number of people.
At the end of September, the National Centre for Pastoral Research analysed the number of people who have been able to share their stories of life and faith with the Plenary Council. That number had smashed through the 10,000 mark, but as Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said, that’s a good start, but it is just a beginning in an effort to reach as many people as possible.
In recent weeks, the Plenary Council has continued to reach into many parts of the Church and the wider community. In Sydney, Lana met with members of the various Eastern Catholic Churches, helping ensure their participation in a journey that incorporates the breadth of Catholic worship and tradition. In Townsville, Bishop Tim Harris meet with almost 200 members of the business community, and in Melbourne, Fr Noel Connolly SSC, from the Facilitation Team, visited a parish that is taking local outreach to the next level.
What are the steps of preparation toward the Plenary Council sessions?
A Plenary Council is held in three stages: preparation, celebration and implementation.
Preparation is what we are doing now and there are three steps during this stage. The first is Open Listening and Dialogue, which we began at Pentecost. This will continue to be the focus until Ash Wednesday (March 6) next year. During this time, all people are invited to share their stories and reflect on the question: “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”
The second step in our preparatory journey will commence after Easter in 2019. We will have discerned the emergent themes from all of the stories that have been shared during the Open Listening and Dialogue stage, and we will move into Dialogue and Discernment. It is a time to continue in the way of dialogue and to gather together to listen, pray, speak with one another and move forward – with focus – towards the future God is calling us to. We will be called to listen to what has been shared and reflect on this in light of the Gospels, Church teachings and good practice from inside and outside of the Church. In this way, we will continue to listen to the Spirit.
Thirdly, in early 2020, the draft Plenary Council papers written during the discernment stage will provide us with an opportunity for the final stage of preparation: Dialogue and Formation. Together, we will read and learn, speak with one another, reflect, take time to listen deeply to the emergent questions and themes, and continue to grapple with what future God is calling us toward. The stories expressing our sense of faith shared during the Open Listening and Dialogue stage will have shaped the program and the discernment of the Plenary Council.
These three steps of preparation will take us toward the celebration of the Plenary Council, which will begin with the first Council session in October 2020.
Realising the dream of Vatican II by Fr Noel Connolly SSC, Plenary Council Facilitation TeamThe bishops at Vatican II deliberately changed the order of chapters in their Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. Instead of beginning “from the top”, with the hierarchy, they began with a chapter on “the People of God”.That is what unites us. We – Pope, bishops, priests and laity – are all members of the people of God. In a people of God theology, the “ontological gap” between clergy and laity dissolves. Our unity comes from our sense of being the people of God on mission. Such a vision can nourish among us great enthusiasm and hope, energy and equality. We are collaborating in something much larger than ourselves: God’s life and mission in the world.In the past year, since being appointed to the Plenary Council Facilitation Team, I returned to studying the history and theology of Vatican II. I am frequently surprised at the treasures it contains which we have yet to mine and develop.Through our Plenary Council, we may make the dreams of Vatican II more real in Australia.