Last Wednesday, on 8 August, I met with thirty five other people from across the Parramatta Diocese at the Institute for Mission in Blacktown. Our reason for being there was participate in the 14th National E-Conference “Synodality in Practice: Listening to the Spirit and Leading Change”. Watching the videos with a group was vastly better than my original plan of viewing the conference alone on my computer!
Archbishop Mark Coleridge started the conference by explaining the term Synodality. Like most people I had no clue what it meant. The Archbishop explained that for centuries the Church divided viewed itself as the Teaching Church comprising the Hierarchy (priests and bishops) and the Learning Church, (the laity). The distinction between Teaching and Learning Churches was rigid. Synodality blurs this distinction between the two Churches by having both groups assuming the roles of teachers and learners. In practice this would allow, every baptised person in the Church to better utilize the gifts given by the Spirit received at Baptism to serve the community and preach the Gospel. For Synodality to occur the group engages in four tasks: listening, trust, faith and prayer. Everyone needs to listen to each other, and all need to listen to the Holy Spirit. We have to trust God and each other. We need to believe God wants to create a new Ecclesial governance in His Church. Finally, we need to pray for the openness to cooperate.
Next, Mrs Lana Turvey Collins explained that Synodality in practice would be the Plenary Council that will be held in 2020 but that preparation was occurring now. Every person would be asked to answer the question: What do you think God is asking of us at this time? Submission of the answer could come to the committee in various ways. The Plenary Council could result in many changes that would be extremely beneficial. Her explanation of the structure of the Council was my favourite part.
Then Professor Massimo Faggioli explained the influences of Pope Francis on Synodality of the local church and some ideas on what needs to be done to make the Australian Church Synodal. Afterwards, Professor Richard Lennan taught us that Tradition and Change do not negate but rather enriches each other if understood properly. The final speaker Mrs Gemma Cruz encouraged the group to think about ways to develop a culture of encounter and foster dialogue with marginalized groups. In our discussion after her talk, the group thought that we needed to foster real discipleship in the members of the Church, and from that, people would be on fire to go out and encourage the marginalized to participate in the Council too.
The church will be on a long journey of faith without roadmap or GPS! We will only know we have arrived, when we reach the destination planned by God! We do know that the whole Church of Australia- every person in all the dioceses in geographic all territories, our brothers and sisters of Eastern rites and the military ordinate are invited to make the journey by participating in the process called the Plenary Council, which is the highest gathering of a local Church. The Holy Spirit will lead us forward. Possibilities abound for a new type of governance, the creation of new structures and strategies to handle the challenges of witnessing to and spreading the gospel. We, as church, can become more of who we are.
The journey will be arduous and messy, because people will feel dislocated. Some will be fearful, and unwilling to share their thinking, others will find the demands of dialogue and listening to others extremely difficult. The archbishop said that the biggest mistake we could make would be to lose our nerve, quit and want go back. I believe that positively thinking elderly people, who already experienced the aftermath of Vatican II , could really encourage the younger members of family and friends that this idea and course of action would be a real source of Hope. Members around my table agreed to this proposal.
Wow, I thought, “This will be a once in a lifetime experience create the future of our Church in Australia!” Yet, I felt a little sad, like Moses on Mt Nebo, who could see the promised land, but could not enter it. Because of my age I might not live to see the Church that will be created here on earth.
As things progressed sadness turned to determination. “What can I do NOW to get involved? “I queried. I CAN Educate myself for participation. I WANT to encourage others to participate in this event. I HAVE BEGUN praying more earnestly for the Plenary Council and that people will be open to dialogue, and the Holy Spirit.
How about it , dear reader, are you willing to get involved too? To find out more:
Visit the Plenary Council website: http://www.plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au
1. Read the Theology page: http://plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/pages/about-us/theology/
2. Read the FAQs page: http://plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/frequentlyaskedquestions
3. Watch Plenary Council Videos: http://plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/resources/watch
4. Subscribe to the Plenary Council e-newsletter: (There is a pop-up box which appears when you log on to the webpage).
Sister Jean Wojcik