I am sure you are aware of the call from the Bishops of Australia to hold a Plenary Council for the Church of Australia. This is an important and significant moment for our church and our diocese. The Plenary Council provides us with an opportunity to listen to God and each other,to share our stories, to respect and hold our difference,and to be transformed and expanded by what we hear. The agenda for the Plenary Council will be created through our listening and dialogue in response to the question:
What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?
Bishop Bill Wright has also indicated his desire to hold a Diocesan Synod, a formal assembly of representatives of the whole diocesan community: clergy, religious and lay people.Diocesan Synods, like Plenary Councils, are important instruments and occasions for effecting renewal.
The timeline for our participation and response is not extensive, hence the need to call upon your immediate co-operation and support.It is important that as many conversations as possiblebe held across the whole diocesan community, with the intention of maximising the number of people who participate. There is a real desire to hear the voice of those connected with the Catholic Church and those whose sense of connection may be tenuous. Feedback from these conversations needs to be recorded on the Plenary Council website so that our contribution is made to both the Plenary Council and Diocesan Synod.
Also below is the Listening and Dialogue Encounter, the suggested process for engaging in small groups. Every person’s story and experience of faith, and the Church, is important and it is essential that every effort is made to reach out and include as many people as possible, as we endeavour to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the people of God.
Please share the information about the Plenary Council and Diocesan Synod as widely as possible within your organisation and among your networks. Videos and promotional materials are available the Plenary Council 2020 website.
Thank you for considering this invitation to assist the diocese and the Church of Australia in listening to what the Spirit is saying.
VICE CHANCELLOR PASTORAL MINISTRIES
A Plenary Council
Pope Francis wrote on 18 May 2018:
I extend cordial greetings and prayerful good wishes as the Catholic community in Australia joins in prayer this Pentecost Sunday to launch the immediate preparations for the forthcoming 2020 Plenary Council. Upon all taking part in the preparatory process, I invoke the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, harmony and openness to the Lord’s will for the future of his pilgrim Church in the country. It is my hope that through patient dialogue and faith-filled discernment, the conciliar journey will confirm the Catholics in Australia in a spirit of fraternal unity and missionary discipleship, thus enabling them to be a leaven of holiness, justice and reconciliation in today’s rapidly changing society. As a pledge of the sustaining grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.
“Listen to what the Spirit is saying.” Rev 2:7
This Plenary Council is a significant moment for the Church in Australia. It invites all of us to listen to God and each other, to share our stories, to respect and hold our difference, and to be transformed and expanded by what we hear. It invites us to be a synodal Church, accompanying each other on the journey.
The agenda for the Plenary Council will be created through our listening and dialogue in response to the question
“What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”
A Diocesan Synod
A Synod - the word means “journeying together” - is a formal assembly of representatives of the whole diocesan community: clergy, religious and lay people. Through the Synod process, which involves collaboration, discernment, governance and communion, the Bishop seeks advice on matters concerning the good of the whole diocese. Declarations and decrees are promulgated which set the direction for the diocese in the form of a Diocesan Pastoral Plan. So, Diocesan Synods are important instruments and occasions for effecting renewal.
The last Diocesan Synod was held in 1992/93 and since then, parishes within the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle have been journeying together through assemblies and gatherings in which they have been discerning the voice of the Spirit.
One Process: One Question
The Plenary Council is well prepared and well-resourced so we will use the Plenary Council process and the Plenary Council question, to prepare for our Diocesan Synod. For more information on both process and question, please visit the Plenary Council 2020 website.
Our diocesan responses to the Plenary Council question - “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” will generate the agenda for our Diocesan Synod. The analytical resources used by the Plenary Council will be able to retrieve our own diocesan data and make it available for our use.
Both the Plenary Council and the Synod have three stages:
1. Preparation – involves a Listening and Dialogue process which will raise the agenda for the Plenary and Synod. Responses are to be uploaded to the website.
2. Celebration – Both the Plenary Council and the Synod will have two sessions.
• Plenary: Adelaide in October 2020 and around May 2021 in Sydney
• Synod: October 2019 and October 2021
3. Implementation – This will take place after the Plenary Council and the Diocesan Synod.
• 2016 – the Diocesan Pastoral Council recommends a Diocesan Synod to Bishop Bill
• May 2017 – Bishop Bill announces the establishment of a Diocesan Council for Mission
• 2017/2018 – preparation of ‘Discernment’ resource to assist the community to integrate synodality and discernment as a way of life
• June 2018 – Diocesan discernment process for the membership of the Diocesan Council for Mission
• July 2018 – Diocesan information session regarding the Plenary Council (Clergy, Parish Leadership, Principals Day)
• August 2018 – meeting of the Plenary/Synod Core Team made up of members of the Pastoral Ministries Unit and the CSO Religious Education and Spirituality Team
• August 2018 – people from parishes, schools, agencies, Catholic bodies etc. from across the diocese are invited to select/discern local animators, who will be responsible for coordinating and encouraging Contemplative Dialogue sessions in their local community, organisation or ministry
• August 2018 – information and training sessions for local animators conducted by the Core Team at several locations in the diocese
• September 2018 – first meeting of the Diocesan Council for Mission
• October 2018 – establishment of Council for Mission Working Parties
• From September 2018 – Contemplative Dialogue groups will meet in as many locations as possible across the whole diocese to participate in the Plenary Council process. The listening and dialogue encounter is an opportunity to get together a group of friends, family or colleagues and spend some time thinking and talking about experiences of faith, life and the Church. Everyone is invited to respond to the question
• 6 March 2019 – Ash Wednesday brings to a close the data gathering phase of the Plenary Council process
• Lent 2019 – Diocesan Lenten Program
• April – May 2019 – Consolidation of information. The data will be analysed by social researchers and grouped thematically. (Plenary Council Facilitation Team)
• June – November 2019 – Working Groups, deep discernment, theological reflection,re-listening, face to face encounters, topic dialogue (Plenary Council Facilitation Team)
• August 2019 – Diocesan responses to the Plenary Council made available to each diocese
• August – October 2019 – Diocesan Synod Working Party prepares for the Diocesan Synod based on the diocesan responses from Plenary Council contemplative dialogue groups
• October 2019 – Diocesan Synod Session One
• 2020 – Draft “Summative Papers” from Plenary Council
• October 2020 – Session #1 of Plenary Council to be held in Adelaide
• 2021 – Draft Pastoral Decrees and Legislation
• May 2021 – Session #2 of Plenary Council to be held in Sydney
• October 2021 – Diocesan Synod Session Two
• February 2022 – Local Diocesan Pastoral Decrees and Legislation
Plenary Council Core Team
• Teresa Brierley – Director Pastoral Ministries
• Sr Louise Gannonrsj - Diocesan Co-ordinator of Liturgy
• John Donnelly – Office of Life and Faith Director
• Brian Lacey – Head of Religious Education and Spirituality Services
• Anne Heaney – Education Officer (Secondary Religious Education and Spirituality Services)
• Brad Fuller - Education Officer (Primary Religious Education and Spirituality Services)
• Mark Spencer - Education Officer (Primary Religious Education and Spirituality Services)
• Bernadette Gibson – Education Officer (Spirituality and Faith Formation)
• Sr Lauretta Bakerrsj – Process Facilitator
The members of the Core Team can be contacted through Teresa Brierley – Director Pastoral Ministries
We are being asked to prayerfully consider what God is asking of us in Australia at this time. Your voice is important to both the Church of Australia and to our diocesan Church. The listening and dialogue process encouragesus to take the time and space to connect with our hearts while listening attentively to the Spirit within ourselves and within each other.