The two assemblies for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will now take place in October 2021 and July 2022, following the disruption of the original schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last time the Catholic Church in Australia held a Plenary Council was in 1937. It has been more than 80 years since we gathered all of the Church together and much has changed.
In 2021, we will have a Plenary Council about the future of the Catholic Church in Australia. What are we called to do? Who are we called to be? How do we need to change?
Pope Francis has spoken of the need to engage in the world and respond in faith:
‘I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things,
times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.’
As children of God, disciples of Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Members of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia are called to develop concrete proposals to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia at this time.view Plenary Council Agenda
Bishop Greg Bennet delivers his welcome message for the 2021 Plenary Council, and introduces the other members representing the Diocese. They share their hopes for the Plenary Council.
Bishop Greg was ordained the 10th Bishop of Sale in December 2020, during the height of the COVID pandemic. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 1992, ministered in several parishes and held leadership positions before becoming the Bishop of our Diocese.
Under Pope Francis’ leadership, we are being invited to be agents of Christ’s mission of hope and compassion, so that our Church and our world may be renewed and transformed. We have been called to be more missionary, prayerful, humble and a healing Church.
We have been on a three-and-a-half-year journey of preparation for the Plenary. We’ve had opportunities to listen deeply, to dialogue and discern the way forward. We go to the Plenary Council, having listened to the many responses that arose from the Listening and Dialogue conversations held around the Diocese and in our 2019 Diocesan Assembly. We have now reached the point where we, your representatives to the Plenary Council, are currently undergoing formation and training for this exciting and challenging role. The whole Church of Australia is invited to be immersed in the Plenary Council journey. Please continue to pray for us that we may be guided by the Holy Spirit. May our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
Fr Peter is the Vicar General of the Diocese and has served in many parishes over several decades. He is the Parish Priest of St Joseph’s Parish Warragul and St Ita’s Parish Drouin. Fr Peter has served as Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese three times, after the retirement of Bishop Coffey, between the periods of Bishop Prowse and Bishop O’Regan and prior to the appointment of Bishop Bennet. Fr Peter was involved in the plans and opening of the Diocese’s newest primary school, St Angela of the Cross, which officially opened in January 2021.
My dream for the Plenary Council is that it might unlock the energy in each Church member to play a part in the mission left to us by Jesus. We have a great story to tell, but we need to tell it better. There are structures and attitudes to confront around clericalism and our past failures. I am hopeful that we can listen to the Spirit and the contributions that people have made and in the reflections of each other.
Fr Denis has many years’ experience of ministering in parishes all over Gippsland, from rural locations in East Gippsland to his current role as Parish Priest of St Thomas the Apostle parish in the growing and very multicultural suburb of Clyde North. St Thomas the Apostle is the newest parish in the Diocese, with Fr Denis installed in 2016 as its first Parish Priest.
My dream for the Plenary Council is that through our prayerful conversations and discernment in the first session, that the Holy Spirit will animate a new missionary impulse for the Church in Australia. I hope that in this first session of the Plenary Council we may celebrate the rich diversity and heritage of our Catholic faith but also learn new ways of accompanying one another as disciples, missionary disciples. And I look forward to representing the Sale Diocese because I’m a Gippslander. I love Gippsland, I’ve been in many of the parishes of Gippsland, from the smallest to the largest Churches. I know God has blessed and I passionately want people to know, how much God loves them.
I am a happy active parishioner of St Michael’s in Berwick, since moving here with Matthew and our 4 children on New Year’s Eve 2013. I also count myself as being extraordinarily fortunate to be a member of the Diocesan Gaudium et Spes Plenary team.
Being a Diocesan member of the Plenary is a bit over-awing, as there is so much expectation on the Council to deliver the goods, whatever they may be. Everyone wants something different, but this is the first council we have had in over 80 years and I am not sure how much can come out of one assembly. What is certain is that change is needed.
Can you remember our country just 50 years ago? Computers took up rooms, television screens were moving from black and white to colour, shops were only opened Monday to Friday from 9-5, families usually had one car, and Maccas was boutique food! Social practices and beliefs that were commonly accepted, even by the Church, are now acknowledged for what they always have been - quite inhumane and unjust. So change is required in our Church. We cannot profess Christ and act in ways that injure and judge. Both these things oppose the teachings we have. The Plenary Agenda is aimed at encouraging us to grow in faith, to come alive and be the light on the hill. The big question is how will we do this?
My hope is that we can find ways of living as a Catholic in the twenty first century that show the world in practical and real ways that being part of the body of Christ makes a positive difference. I dream that our Church becomes a leader in treating people and planet well, even when it is tough to do so. The accountant in me would like a five-year plan or map – something to measure ourselves by and we can track what works and what could be improved.
One measure of change I have already observed is the willingness of people to engage openly and honestly in the Listening & Discerning and Listening & Dialogue sessions and the Diocesan Assembly. Participating in prayerful and honest sharing of ideas to grow our parish, our diocese and our national church has been an incredible process to be part of. I hope that we continue to engage in communal prayer-based dialogue and grow the fruits of the discussions into reality.
Lize is a primary teacher with many years’ experience and an active parishioner of Our Lady Help of Christians, Narre Warren. She is currently the Deputy Principal at Mary MacKillop Primary School, Narre Warren North, with responsibility for Religious Education and Student Support.
I’m looking forward to representing the Diocese of Sale at the Plenary Council because I wish to continue on this journey of involvement in the Plenary discussions which are essentially about the future of the Catholic Church in Australia. It is a unique opportunity to gather and dialogue with many, in an open and inclusive process, allowing the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts and minds as we listen, exchange ideas, pray and discern.
Sister Mary is a member of the Sisters of the Nativity congregation. She lives and works in Cranbourne Parish. She is representing religious women as a Plenary Member.
We are all God's children sharing a common life. God is with us; we are God's dwelling place. The Holy Spirit is actively working through us and in the entire creation in ways beyond our human imagination. My desire is that this Fifth Plenary Council of Australia be Spirit-filled and will enable us to claim our identity in God and truly live it out. May God bless us all.