The Second Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will be held from 3-9 July 2022. It is a time of significance for the Church in Australia as Council Members gather to pray, reflect, discuss and discern the path to which the Holy Spirit is calling us. It is also strongly aligned towards the world-wide preparation for the Synod of Bishops in 2023.
There is much excitement as our Plenary Council Members, Bishop Greg Bennet, Fr Peter Slater VG, Fr Denis O’Bryan EV, Lize Privitera, Katherine Jelavic and Sr Mary Olofu SON prepare to meet in person as part of the 277-member strong Assembly in Sydney. Also present will be official observers, including Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, President of the Federation of Asian Catholic Bishops and Cardinal John Dew, President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference.
The Plenary Council Members have been reflecting on the Framework for Motions document. There are 30 motions across eight mission areas which will be discussed at the Second Assembly.
These have emerged from the discernment process of the First Assembly, held in October 2021. The road to the Framework for Motions is the result of four years of the Plenary Council journey which began in 2018, with various phases, including the Listening and Dialogue phase which drew more than 17,000 submissions from around Australia, representing more than 222,000 people.
The Eight Mission areas covered in the Framework for Motions are:
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.
As the second session of the Plenary fast approaches, I have enjoyed the opportunity to re-engage with other members through the regular coffee-conversations held via Teams. I have been inspired by the openness of other members and their profound sense of responsibility in preparation for the second session. Their faith and commitment has given me hope as I prepare for the pilgrimage ahead. It has been a time of prayer and reflection, as we begin to see the years of preparation form in the motions before us and to see how they respond to the initial question: What is God asking of us in Australia at this time? I have attempted to keep one ear close to the ground in order to listen to the spiritual, pastoral, sacramental hopes of the people of Sale which I and other members will carry with us.
My “hope” is the second session of 277 members will be a true sign of the breadth and depth of the Catholic Church in Australia and how we are just beginning to learn the way of being a synodal Church which dares to listen, to accompany and to discern God’s presence. May what we experience, learn and enact at the plenary, flow over the whole Church as we embrace the mission of Jesus entrusted to us in this time and place.
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.
I have read the Framework for Motions, prayed for guidance for the pc including myself, and joined the Coffee Conversations.
My big hope; I think we have a chance to encourage steps forward in recognition of our indigenous brothers and sisters, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and in supporting their efforts to have a significant place in Australia’s life. I hope too that care of the planet will become more significant in our practice as church. Then I hope there will be real growth in the discipleship journey of all Catholics.
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.
I have been preparing for the Second Assembly in various ways. I have found myself prayerfully contemplating daily the Framework for Motions which holds so much of the wisdom and reflection of the First Assembly and which will form the basis for the coming Assembly. I have enjoyed joining the Coffee Conversations with other delegates as we prepare to be together in Sydney. I can sense the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit which fills me with encouragement and hope as I listen to people express their hopes for the Assembly. I am conscious of others who are praying for me and all the delegates.
My true hope for the Plenary Council is that it be a source of a great hope and joy that truly comes from God, and a basis for a renewed encounter with Jesus for all, and vibrant new life in the Holy Spirit for the communities of the Sale Diocese.
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.
Over the last few months I have spent time reading, reflecting upon and responding to Plenary documents, engaging with other members and learning about the second session in the Plenary Coffee Conversations, attended various online sessions offered by non-plenary groups, and talked with people in our diocese. Throughout all of this I have spent much time in prayer and reflecting on how our Australian Church journeys in a world that has changed so dramatically since the first Plenary conversations in 2018.
My hope feels pretty simple. That the acts and decrees of the Plenary Council are the work of the Holy Spirit who will inspire many of us to bring them to life. When the motions are brought to life, I hope we find an outpouring of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
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.
During the most recent couple of months leading to the Second Assembly, much reading material has come across our path. In preparation for the Plenary Assembly to be held in Sydney, the information, resources and various documents provided have guided my journey of discernment in readiness for the dialogue and decisions that lie ahead. Keeping in contact with members of the Diocesan 'Gaudium et Spes' group, different individuals of the Plenary Council and individual staff of the Catholic Education community provides avenues for dialogue and voices to be heard and shared. The arrangement with the Synod has enhanced the interaction as the two occasions provide the opportunities to work together for the good of Christian communities within Australia and across the globe.
My ‘big hope’ for the Plenary Council is to remain consistent with the underlying challenge of ‘listening to the Spirit.’ The spiritual conversations have tuned members to listen and speak attentively and I continue to be hopeful that these actions are animated in the way, as the people of the Catholic Church, live out faith in our personal lives and within our local Church communities. The motions that are put forward are a means by which local Church communities across Australia can give witness to becoming a more Christ-centred Church. I look forward to sharing my voice and those of others as we all together strive to become a renewed Church in the 21st century.
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.
In my preparations for the Second Assembly,
I remind myself of my Baptismal Consecration and I claim the Truth of being God’s child by the Holy Spirit that I have received, empowering me to be a leader, a Prophet, and a Priest with all the Baptized.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a conscious reality in my life as I prepare for the Second Assembly. God is actively present in His Church, working and renewing it through human persons in action and I am called to participate in this mystery.
More than ever in my life, I have come to see the need and the importance of my relationships, my connectedness and attentiveness to the global world, to individuals, families, the youth, my immediate faith community, and the Australian Church. Creating opportunities for ongoing conversation, listening to what is an important and urgent need for us as Church, with the lens of the gospels to sieve through the information have been a major part of my preparation.
As the Second Assembly draws near, I call myself to listen deeply and participate in the activities leading up to this Second Assembly, bringing all of these to my personal prayer and gather the fruits of my reflections. I am trying to support my body to stay healthy, to be at peace and in union with God in prayer as I await the task ahead.
My Big Hope for the Plenary Council is to empower the Christian community to claim and be proud of their identity. To call forth a Spirit-filled community that will truly celebrate its unity in diversity reaching out in humble service to all those on the margins and witnessing to holiness of life. And that we promote authentic Catholic identity in all our schools.
May God bless us all with abundant graces as we journey through this significant moment in the history of the Church in Australia.