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The last Plenary Council held was in 1937… 81 years ago. Times have changed, let’s move forward together.

The Plenary Council is upon us all.

What is a Plenary Council? Why a Plenary Council?
A Plenary Council is a formal meeting of the bishops and other representatives of all the dioceses and eparchies of the Catholic Church in Australia. Its purpose is to discern what God is asking of us in Australia at this present time. While the church should be asking that question continually, a Plenary Council is a particularly graced instrument for seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance. And it has the authority to make church laws on the results of its discernment.
Although in the end it will be the bishops who will vote on any future directions for the church in Australia, they will be making those decisions in the light of a long listening to the Holy Spirit speaking through the voices of any of the faithful who wish to speak around Australia. This makes the Plenary Council 2020 different from the last one in 1937. Everyone has a chance to participate and to express whatever the Spirit is saying to them in their heart.
Vatican II spoke of how God, who spoke in the past, “continues to converse” with the church (Dei Verbum, 8). Through our Plenary Council 2020, the Catholic Church hopes to enter more intensely into that divine-human dialogue.

Submissions were accepted until Ash Wednesday, March 2019 and have now closed.

Please read the final submission from St Kevin’s Parish in Templestowe. 


PlenaryPost  edition 20 August 2019

Over a period of six weeks, the Plenary Council team, in partnership with the National Centre for Pastoral Research (NCPR), published a series of “snapshot reports” relevant to each of the six National Themes for Discernment. This past Sunday, the NCPR published the final report to summarise the Listening and Dialogue phase of the Plenary Council.

Listen to what the Spirit is saying captures the voices of the more than 222,000 people who made an individual submission to the Plenary Council or were part of the thousands of groups — large and small — who made a joint submission. The report seeks to share the threads and topics that emerged in the 17,457 submissions, in people’s questions and in their stories of faith.

At 314 pages, the document is comprehensive and, as NCPR director Trudy Dantis explains, the report is “faithful to the stories told, the questions asked and the opinions shared”. Read more about Listen to what the Spirit is saying below.
With thanks to the Plenary Council and the ACBC.

Final National Report released

The Final National report on the Listening and Dialogue phase of the Plenary Council has now been published. It is a lengthy and detailed account of all submissions, explaining how the 6 themes were reached. Download here Final National Report from phase 1, or visit the Plenary Council website resources page where you can view all reports

 Theme ‘Snapshot’ reports published


Click on the individual ‘snapshots’ (pictures) above to view/download

The Plenary Council has released all 6 “snapshot” reports that provide an overview of the stories, questions and submissions received during the Listening and Dialogue phase of the Council. These reports will have been released to provide insights into each of the 6 National Themes for Discernment being: ‘Missionary & Evangelising‘; ‘Inclusive, Participatory & Synodal‘; ‘Prayerful & Eucharistic‘; ‘Humble, Healing & Merciful‘; ‘A Joyful, Hope Filled & Servant Community‘; ‘Open to Conversion, Renewal & Reform‘. As well as excerpts from the almost 17,500 submissions received, the reports also include some of the topics that fit under each National Theme for Discernment – with many topics relating to multiple themes. A relevant Scripture quote and other explanatory material is also included. All reports can be found on the theme page on the Plenary Council website or click on the reports above to view/download.


Faithful show a spirit of generosity, resilience and love

by Lana Turvey-Collins
Last week, the applications for the Discernment and Writing Groups for the second stage of the Plenary Council closed and the process of shortlisting the 260 applicants has now begun. We have been inspired by the level of engagement and responses from so many people around the country. Our office has received many expressions of interest, questions, concerns and an overwhelming number of people offering their skills and talents to help in any way they could. Amidst this process of recruitment, we have also had the opportunity to hear the stories of Australians who opened their hearts to share their reasons for putting their hands up to serve. These stories are points of connection that remind me of the resilient spirit and deep love for our Church that each person possesses, despite the divergent perspectives we may have. It is the individuality and uniqueness of this love that I hope our journey towards the Plenary Council captures. In the coming weeks, we will be inviting you to share your voice again by participating in a new Listening and Discernment resource that will be launched on the Plenary Council website. This resource invites you, together with your community, to discern how God is calling us to be a Christ-centred Church that is: Missionary and evangelising; Inclusive, participatory and synodal; Prayerful and Eucharistic; Humble, healing and merciful; A joyful, hope-filled and servant community, open to conversion renewal and reform. Thank you to everyone for your kindness, generosity of spirit, passion and faith. It has been a privilege to listen to the voices of the people of God and I highly commend the final report, available on the Plenary Council website, to you as we enter into this critical stage of discernment.

Why are we having a Plenary Council in 2020?

There are many reasons for having a Plenary Council for the Catholic Church in Australia. Those reasons include: Pope Francis has invited the local Church to dialogue; the contemporary society of Australia has changed significantly; and the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse has been a significant and influential event that requires deep consideration and response.

When the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference announced the decision to hold a Plenary Council, Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge said that “the Church is not the presence in our society it once was. We need to take a measure of that and make decisions accordingly. The culture in which we have to proclaim the Gospel is very different to what it was even 20 or 30 years ago.”

The Council is being held in 2020 in order to give the Catholic community in Australia time to listen, dialogue and discern with one another and, guided by the Holy Spirit, about the future, the role and relevance of the Catholic Church in Australia.


A unique resource for the Church in Australia
by Fr Noel Connolly SSC, Plenary Council Facilitation Team
In Listen to what the Spirit is saying, we have a exceptional expression of the sense of the faithful. We will need patient discernment to grasp the voice of the Holy Spirit among the enthusiastic, strongly held but sometimes contradictory voices of the people of God. We will also need humility and a generous openness to all. It is too easy for us to decide who has the sensus fidei and who should be listened to. 
Individual believers who are committed to their spiritual lives and live a sacramental life will have a special insight. However, few of us live full Christian lives. We all have blind spots. We also need to listen to our prophets.
We need to attend to the victims of child abuse, to gay Catholics and divorced Catholics and all those who are marginalised and find themselves in “ecclesial exile”. Given the sins of the Church in recent times, there are many of these and many who have great faith.
Click here to read Fr Noel’s full article.

Brisbane prepares for diocesan assembly

More than 600 people are expected to later this year attend the Brisbane Assembly, an event building towards the Plenary Council 2020.

Eric Robinson, the Archdiocese of Brisbane’s Plenary Council co-ordinator, said the Brisbane Assembly will be “a really high-quality experience of listening and discernment” that builds on the Plenary Council process so far.

“My hope is that people walk away from the assembly with hope and feeling empowered about this plenary journey and their role in it,” Mr Robinson told The Catholic Leader.

“We really need to hear from the broad spectrum of those people in the Church. If there was ever a time to engage and share what you feel God is asking of the Church today – this whole process is set up to listen to the spirit of the people.”

Click here to read more from The Catholic Leader.

Plenary Council drawing international interest

The general secretaries of the episcopal conferences of Germany, France and England and Wales have used their visit to Australia to learn more about the Plenary Council process unfolding in this country. Fr Christopher Thomas from the Bishops Conference of England and Wales saw the Plenary Council as “a bold step because it’s most definitely not a top-down approach. It’s a listening and discerning exercise which I think the Church, under the leadership of Pope Francis, is certainly being encouraged to take,” he said. Fr Thierry Magnin, from the French bishops conference, said he too was “very impressed” by the way the Church in Australia has embraced the concept of synodality, saying the Plenary Council provides an example for how the Church can better engage with the faithful.

NZ cardinal’s visit has Plenary Council flavour

When Cardinal John Dew, the Archbishop of Wellington, speaks in Parramatta next week, it is expected to help the diocese’s ongoing preparation for the Plenary Council. Cardinal Dew, who will speak on “Servant leadership in the spirit of Pope Francis”, has led his archdiocese through two Synods in the past 15 years, including one in 2017. As with the Plenary Council under way in Australia, discernment was a key aspect of the Wellington Synods. The 2017 Synod led to a number of priorities and directions for the archdiocese, which takes in the lower North Island and upper South Island. Earlier this year, members of the Plenary Council Facilitation Team met with Cardinal Dew to assess what lessons could be taken from the 2017 Synod, in particular, to guide the Plenary Council. Click here for more on Cardinal Dew’s talk in Parramatta.

Mystery surrounds 1937 Plenary Council discovery

Why did a non-practising Anglican have a Catechism booklet from the last Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in Australia in 1937? That’s still unclear, but the story certainly has people talking.

While sorting through his late father’s old handkerchief drawer, Brisbane man James Anderson came across a number of curious items — including the Plenary Council booklet. As he told The Catholic Leader, the booklet contains prayers, expectations for Catholics and questions and answers about the faith.

The booklet offered up a small number of clues to its origins, including the organisation that published it, but all those led to a dead end.

Mr Anderson told The Leader the discovery is “a great little carry-book for an everyday gentleperson, Christian Catholic”. 

“It’s all very factual, it’s wonderful, it’s really great,” he said. “I’d love to try and reproduce this if we could.”

Click here to read the full story from The Catholic Leader.

Plenary2020 Update: Submission statistics show Council’s national reach

The National Centre for Pastoral Research (NCPR), which is currently conducting the analysis of individual and group submissions, has released a summary of statistical data covering the period from May 2018 until March 2019. 
NCPR director Trudy Dantis advised that the listing of topics that were discussed in people’s submissions should not be seen as pre-empting the National Themes for Discernment, which will be announced on June 9 — Pentecost Sunday. Those themes will emerge from the qualitative analysis, while the report just released focuses on quantitative data. Some of the largest groups to participate in the Listening and Dialogue phase included Catholic Social Services Victoria, a large parish in Canberra’s growing northern suburbs and the Passionist Family Movement. The top five countries of birth for respondents, after Australia, were the United Kingdom, the Philippines, New Zealand, India and Ireland.
A joint initiative After the St Kevin’s parish submission was made to the Plenary Council on 6 March 2019, representatives of the St Kevin’s began working towards a joint parish statement to represent 20-30 parishes in Melbourne. Following a meeting of over 60 people from 22 parishes on 13 April 2019, a drafting group prepared a joint statement which has been sent into the Plenary Council committee for consideration as part of a further submission.  This statement is consistent with our original parish submission, and is intended to show that there is strong support for the themes of that submission across parishes. 
View the Joint Statement here: Plenary Council 2020 Joint Statement May 2019
Here at St Kevin’s Parish in Templestowe, we thought we’d do things a little differently. So we constructed an online Survey using ‘SurveyMonkey’ to ask our Parishioners their thoughts on ‘The Church’ and the upcoming Plenary Council in 2020.


The Plenary Council is upon us all.

Here at St Kevin’s Parish, we are having our say. A group of parishioners have come together, constructed and sent a letter to Archbishop Peter Comensoli to voice our thoughts, worries and hopes regarding the upcoming Plenary Council in 2020.

Structure of the Plenary Council

On behalf of St Kevin’s Parish in Templestowe, concern about the structure of the Plenary Council has initiated an insightful proposition in the format of ‘some discussion notes’. This short, powerful document opens our thoughts to perhaps another way for everyday concerned Christians to have their voices be heard. It explores Canon Law 443- which has perhaps allowed a loophole to possibly opening the Plenary Council to others… not just the Bishops.  A very interesting read indeed….
Has a wealth of information, latest news, resources.

The Participation of Women in the 2020 Plenary Council 

A paper was prepared by the Council for Australian Catholic Women as a basis for a discussion with Archbishop Mark Coleridge June 2017.
The Social Justice Sunday Statement in 2000, the Bishops’ response to the Woman and Man, included nine decisions of national significance and 31 proposals for implementation at local diocesan level.  Decision number 8 recommended that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) establish a Commission for Australian Catholic Women to facilitate the implementation of the decisions and recommendations of the ACBC in response to Woman and Man.
It was accountable to the Bishops’ Committee for the Laity and would have role monitoring the development of strategic planning and evaluation of the ACBC recommendations.The Commission for Australian Catholic Women (CACW) would have an Office, known as the Office for the Participation of Women (OPW), to support its work.
In 2006, the Bishops determined that the Commission would be replaced with the Council for Australian Catholic Women.
The Council would now provide advice to the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry about women and their participation in the Catholic Church in Australia.
Questions have been raised as to whether this move has resulted in a downgrading of the voice of women in the Church.  Reduction in staffing and the need for the Director to also support the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry raises the concern that the scope of responsibilities for the Director of the OPW has become much too wide.
The intention of the bishops’ decisions in 2001 was to give women a better platform for contributing their talents, gifts and wisdom to the service of the Church. This would enable their voices to be more readily heard, recognised, reported and brought to the attention of the hierarchical/institutional Church in a positive, respectful and consultative way. The pioneering and spirit-led decision by the bishops of Australia taken in 2001 should be respected in the decisions about the agenda and participation of women in the 2020 Plenary Council. Some progress has been made, but the Plenary Council provides renewed opportunity to hear and respond to the voices of women. The need to be open and responsible to diverse voices, including that of women, has been reinforced by the deliberations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The need for continuing engagement between the ACBC and women remains relevant and is in fact more compelling in 2017.