What’s involved in the Plenary process?

Monaro Plenary session

Participants at a Monaro Plenary session

As the Plenary Council listening and dialog sessions are making their way around the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, it seems a good time to look at what’s involved in the Plenary Council process.

What are the steps of preparation toward the Plenary Council sessions? 

A Plenary Council is held in three stages: preparation, celebration and implementation.

Preparation is what we are doing now and there are three steps during this stage. The first is Open Listening and Dialogue, which we began at Pentecost. This will continue to be the focus until Ash Wednesday (March 6) next year. During this time, all people are invited to share their stories and reflect on the question: “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”

The second step in our preparatory journey will commence after Easter in 2019. We will have discerned the emergent themes from all of the stories that have been shared during the Open Listening and Dialogue stage, and we will move into Dialogue and Discernment. It is a time to continue in the way of dialogue and to gather together to listen, pray, speak with one another and move forward – with focus – towards the future God is calling us to. We will be called to listen to what has been shared and reflect on this in light of the Gospels, Church teachings and good practice from inside and outside of the Church. In this way, we will continue to listen to the Spirit.  

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Thirdly, in early 2020, the draft Plenary Council papers written during the discernment stage will provide us with an opportunity for the final stage of preparation: Dialogue and Formation. Together, we will read and learn, speak with one another, reflect, take time to listen deeply to the emergent questions and themes, and continue to grapple with what future God is calling us toward. The stories expressing our sense of faith shared during the Open Listening and Dialogue stage will have shaped the program and the discernment of the Plenary Council.  

These three steps of preparation will take us toward the celebration of the Plenary Council, which will begin with the first Council session in October 2020. 

What happens to my story after I’ve shared it? 

Online and postal responses are being collected and collated by the National Centre for Pastoral Research. A team highly skilled in social and pastoral research and qualitative analysis, led by Dr Trudy Dantis, receives and keeps every individual response.

Early in 2019, Dr Dantis and her team will begin a deep analysis – a methodical “listening” to all responses. The stories that have been shared, the questions that have been asked and the reflections on “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” will be read and analysed. The team will use both quantitative and qualitative methods for their analysis. In this process, in order to read without bias, the responses are separated from the person’s name and organisation or any other details that might identify the source of the response.  

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When the first stage of analysis is complete (May 2019), the themes that have emerged will become the platform for the next stage in our preparation toward the Plenary Council: Thematic Dialogue and Discernment. The responses we are receiving in 2018 during this Open Listening and Dialogue stage are shaping the program for the Plenary Council in 2020.

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  • Joseph 6 years

    In an article entitled “Seeking a plenary council fit for purpose” Fr Frank Brennan SJ draws attention to Canons 127 & 212 of the Code of Canon Law which affect the consultation process. This is the only place where I have read about how Canon Law may affect the whole Plenary Council process. Brennan suggests an amendment to Caon 443 may be needed to increase laity representation at the Council. Surely if we,the people in the pews, & at the same time the People of God, are to take part in this Council process, we should all be made aware of the Rules that govern it. Otherwise the Clerics will win the game because they will be not only playing but also umpiring.