In my role as a member of the Plenary Council Facilitation Team, with Lana Turvey-Collins, Peter Gates, and Olivia Lee, there still seems to be countless matters to attend to in these final days of preparation before the first session of the Plenary on 3 October.
Every Tuesday evening for the last six weeks the Facilitation Team has provided a session on a variety of themes, including Women in Leadership in the Church and Synodality.
Each of these “Coffee Conversation” sessions, as we called them, were really an opportunity for all the 278 Members of the Plenary Council to engage in conversation with one another and get to know one another a little more, as well as practice the art of discernment in small groups, which is fundamental to the process being used during the days of the Assembly.
Another aspect of my role, which has been a real privilege, has been meeting with all the various groups and committees which form the engine room, you might say, for the work going on behind the scenes. Perhaps I should say behind the screens!
The Facilitation Team have all been in lockdown, in our own homes, for the past 13 weeks. All our planning with each other and our numerous meetings have needed to be online. While this was a challenge, it was also good practice for the first Assembly as the members will be participating from across Australia using all the tech tools that Microsoft Teams has to offer to make the experience of the Assembly as Spirit-filled, engaging, and productive as possible.
At this stage, the Facilitation Team has invited the members to spend some personal reflection time with the agenda. We have asked them to let us know which of the questions they feel drawn to discern and dialogue with during the Assembly.
I encourage you to go to the Plenary Council web site, spend some time with the Agenda questions and see where your own heart takes you.
There are two questions that speak to me and resonate with my own Josephite spirituality and the Congregation’s invitation at our 27th General Chapter: Raising the Powers of love, Go and Do the Same.
“How might the Church in Australia meet the needs of the most vulnerable, go to the peripheries, be missionary in places that may be overlooked or left behind in contemporary Australia. How might we partner with others to do this?”
“How might the People of God, lay and ordained, women and men, approach governance in the spirit of synodality and co-responsibility for a more effective proclamation of the Gospel?”
Reflecting on these two questions also reminded me of the key word which stood out so clearly for me when I read the thousands of responses the People of God shared from the listening/discernment and dialogue phase, two years ago: “inclusivity.”
It is my hope that we will truly become a Church that is inclusive in its relationships, language, structures, roles, customs, and practices. A living expression of synodality.
The opening and closing celebration of the Eucharist, as well as the first half of the plenary session each day will be live streamed, and you can access these through the Plenary Council website. I invite you to pray the Plenary Council prayer each day as this significant event in the life of the Australian Catholic Church community unfolds:
O God, bless 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. Amen
Our Lady Help of Christians, pray for us.
St Mary MacKillop, pray for us.
Marion Gambin rsj