We all seek a church that brings life
Just prior to Easter Archbishop Christopher announced the first steps towards a renewed Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. He has situated this initiative in the ongoing mission of Evangelisation and the call to synodal discernment.
While being open to a variety of formats and ways of operating, Archbishop Christopher is clear this body is about our baptismal obligation to make Jesus known and loved. He intends it to be an active body furthering the Gospel in the Archdiocese.
A Working Party has been convened to progress the Archbishop’s decision. It will review what we have done in the past, consider our present needs and propose to the Archdiocese options for an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.
Our Archdiocese led the way in the formation of such Councils – firstly under Archbishop Eris O’Brien in 1966, then in different shapes and structures under Archbishops Ted Clancy, Francis Carroll and Mark Coleridge.
Interestingly, each of these Archbishops had at least two versions of the Pastoral Council. Each reflected the needs of the Archdiocese as discerned by the Archbishop at the time.
What are the needs of the community of the Archdiocese now – in this time and in this context? This is a question for each of us and all of us.
Some needs are obvious: families are under ever greater pressures; we have many more older members of our parish communities; young people are yearning for future options that provide hope and meaning; all of us, each in our own way, seek a Church that brings life and joy to those most in need of the presence of Jesus. Other needs will be more specific to particular parishes and communities – hearing these is central to the work of an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.
Pope Francis calls us to synodality – the term he is using to prompt each of us to ask, “what does synodality mean?”
Synodality means to listen carefully and attentively to each other and to the Spirit. It is not at all a passive listening – hearing words without a true sense of meaning. It has more in common with Carl Roger’s idea of active listening, but is not that either. Synodal listening is to seek the heart of what is being communicated. Asking “what does this mean?” and “Why is this the case?” Always at the centre of synodal listening is the focus on the other person.
Pope Francis combines this with a number of his other signature calls: to be a field hospital always ready to move toward and care for those at the margins; to be a merciful, evangelising Church – one that proclaims Jesus to the world.
An Archdiocesan Pastoral Council in this time cannot and must not be a talk fest of those comfortable with the status quo. It needs to be an active body responsible, with the other formal structures of the Archdiocese – parishes, social welfare bodies, schools, the Archbishop and his offices – to witness to hope offering mercy and joy to all. This is a living prophetic mission worthy of the name Christian.