COVID provides time to dive deep into Plenary topics
Plenary Council lay delegate for the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Brigid Cooney, provides an overview of the Plenary process so far.
Since 2018 the Catholic community of Australia has been pursuing a process of listening, discernment, and dialogue in preparation for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia. While this journey has been extended by a year because of the current circumstances, the work continues. Delegates, participants, and all members of our community can use this time for further discernment and discussion to become a holier and more whole Church.
This process has taken on three phases and together we are journeying towards the First Assembly. So far, the Church in Australia has actively engaged in Listening and Dialogue sessions that brought forward the diverse range of voices in our country. These sessions inspired almost 18,000 submissions to the Plenary Council. These submissions came from individuals, parishes, community groups, and others who took up the challenge to share their heart for the Church.
From these sessions, six themes for further discernment were drawn out to guide the Church as we entered the second phase of discernment for the Plenary Council. Our Church communities were drawn together again to delve deeply into these themes and together we sought to identify areas for change, and resolutions to the challenges that face the Church in modern Australia. It is from this phase of discernment that the Thematic Papers were born. These Papers summarise the vision and outlook that will be taken to the Plenary Council as we seek to inspire hopeful change in our Church.
The release of the Thematic Papers was supposed to lead quickly into Assembly One of the Plenary Council in Adelaide. Due to the ever-evolving nature of the current COVID-19 situation, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference have made the decision to postpone the Plenary Council formation and assemblies to 2021 and 2022. This will mean that we have more time to deep dive into these important topics, and most importantly to ensure the safety of all participants. These times of isolation and change will undoubtedly challenge us to reflect on our own and our Church’s response to times of trial.
As a delegate, and more generally as a member of the Catholic community in Australia, I am excited to be a part of the growth and change that will come from the Plenary Council process. I have already seen how listening and dialogue has brought together the diverse people of our Church. This is an unmissable opportunity for our Church leadership and the everyday members of our parishes and communities to be brave and pursue a holier, more whole Church.
To stay up to date with the Plenary Council proceedings follow the ACBC and the Plenary Council 2020 social media pages, and check out the website at https://plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/. The Thematic Papers can be accessed online and are available to print or as audio versions.
- Brigid Cooney, 21, is one of two lay delegates to the Plenary Council representing the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Teaching at ACU with the hopes of becoming a high school History and RE teacher. Her home parish is Our Lady of the Annunciation, Weston Creek.