On Wednesday 6 October, the third morning Plenary was livestreamed for public viewing. In case you weren’t able to tune in, here are a few things you missed.

Archbishop Costelloe’s address

President of the Plenary Council and Archbishop of Perth, Timothy Costelloe SDB, gave an opening address on some particular points of process when it comes to the Council. According to the Plenary’s Statutes and Regulatory Norms, motions (that is, written documents that argue for a particular judgment, resolution or course of action) are able to be proposed by Plenary Members and then prepared by the Drafting Committee.

In order to remain faithful to the discernment process that is taking place in small groups throughout this First Assembly, it has been decided by the Steering Committee (the group in charge of ordering and managing the agenda for each plenary) that any formal motions will only be brought forward for discussion and debate in the Second Assembly in 2022. This is because the process of actually drafting the motions will be another step in the journey of discernment.

‘It is discernment that is at the heart of everything we’re doing,’ said Archbishop Costelloe.

‘After this First Assembly concludes, it will be part of the work of the Drafting Committee to discern the emerging themes from all the proposals submitted along with the outcome of the small group discernments, and recommend further areas for study, exploration and consultation.’

The period of nine months between the assemblies will be an important time in which the Drafting Committee turns the proposals and submissions into something formal to be debated. This is an important move taken so that the tabling of formal motions does not run ahead of the process of discernment itself but is able to remain faithful to it.

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Rev Dr Richard Lennan’s address

The Rev Dr Richard Lennan is one of the periti (expert advisors) who are available for consultation and guidance throughout the discernment process. He joined the Zoom call from Boston in order to give a short address focussing upon the idea of an ‘integral ecclesiology’. Like Pope Francis’ proposal for an ‘integral ecology’ that challenges us to think in interconnected ways about the ecological crises confronting us (thinking economically, politically, culturally, and not simply through one lens), Lennan invites us to consider that in order to understand the nature of ‘mission’ we need an interconnected and integral understanding of the Church – an ‘integral ecclesiology’.

The thrust of his talk was that, according to the theology laid out in the Vatican II document Ad Gentes, we need to understand the ‘mission’ of the Church as originating in God who is ‘missionary’; the God who reaches out to us and invites us into communion and friendship with Him.

From Lennan:

It is so important to keep in mind that the world of which we a part is God’s world. It is a graced world. It’s a complex world, in the way that each of us and our Church are complex realities. But nonetheless it is graced.’

Members continue to unpack agenda questions

The 278 members have continued to meet in small groups to discuss the 16 questions on the agenda. Yesterday they moved from broad engagements with the questions to more specific ideas and proposals. For a brief snapshot of some of the discussions, you can read through the media release posted on the Plenary Council website.

One of the reports shared was from the group looking at Catholic education and how to accompany parents as the first educators.

Fr Cameron Forbes shared on behalf of his group that ‘a challenge exists for educators to ensure that all receive a sense of welcome as we accompany them towards faith, away from the many distractions that exist.’ The group also floated the idea of developing a ‘national understanding of what a graduate of Catholic education looks like’.

Presentation of Thursday’s program

Thursday 7 October will be a day different from others for the Plenary Members. Instead of the 16 questions being considered in small groups, there will only be two questions under consideration for that day. Those questions are:

  1. How might we heal the wounds of abuse, coming to see through the eyes of those who have been abused?
  2. How might the Church in Australia meet the needs of the most vulnerable, go to the peripheries, be missionary in places that may be overlooked or left behind in contemporary Australia? How might we partner with others (Christians, people of other faiths, neighbourhood community groups, government) to do this?

Thursday will be a special day of discernment and prayer over these questions in particular. As a result, the only public livestreamed event for Thursday 7 October will be the Plenary Mass at 9.30am AEDT, to be celebrated by Maronite Archbishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay OLM.

Catch up on this morning’s Plenary session at www.plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au.

Feature image: Melbourne Member Jonathan Antony (currently in Perth). Image courtesy of Catholic Archdiocese of Perth