Plenary Council – a journey, with the Spirit and one another, of discernment, dialogue & renewal.

When the date for the Plenary Council assemblies was pushed forward a year, because of the impact of COVID-19, I did wonder how this might affect everyone’s involvement and commitment to the journey, begun in 2018. My own involvement took a different turn as I became a member of the Facilitation Team. My personal reflection then led me to ponder the opportunities this change of date might create for all of us.

My first task was to spend time reading the thousands of responses that had been sent in from the listening/dialogue and discernment phase. This certainly gave me a deep sense of the enormous diversity of understanding that exists, amongst the faith community, across all age groups, of how we, as church, can best be renewed. I wonder now, how these responses might be shaped by the experience of living the past ten months under the cloud of a pandemic and how this influences the living of one’s faith as a member of the Catholic church community. I have found it helpful to reflect on the six Thematic Discernment Papers, brought together by six writing teams and provided to us on the Plenary Council website (provided below). What a challenge it must have been for these six teams to honour the responses of the Australian catholic community. For me these papers say so much about the longing in our hearts for our church community to be radically inclusive, where each person finds a home from which to go out and live our ‘faith in action’ for the common good. Pope Francis constantly calls us to be a more ‘synodal and outgoing Church.’ I live with the hope that, the path of our Plenary Council journey will lead us to this place, with a renewed understanding of the central place of God’s mission in our world.

Another aspect of being a member of the Facilitation Team, which has truly inspired me and given me hope for our future, is the opportunity the role has provided to be in conversation with the 65 Local Coordinators from across Australia. Each one of these coordinators has been working away at the grassroots to encourage the participation of their local communities in the diocese of which they belong.

I do believe this extra time to work towards the first Assembly is providing us with an opportunity to further discern what God is asking of us and to act on what can already be achieved in our local parishes. It takes all of us working together to do this, with hearts and minds open and transparent in our willingness to appreciate the gifts each one brings. It has given us time to draw strength and encouragement from the theme of Mary MacKillop’s 10th Anniversary of canonisation – ‘Take Fresh Courage.’ Let’s look for ways we can do this so that we will continue to be open to what God is asking of us at this time.

Marion Gambin rsj

Plenary Council website