The 277 members of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia began to gather on the weekend for the second and final assembly. We have been preparing spiritually, communally, emotionally, psychologically and in all sorts of other ways for four years for this assembly, at which voting on motions will take place. Archbishop Timothy Costello said:
We will gather on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken an interest in this pilgrimage from listening and dialogue, through discernment, shaped by prayer and, ultimately, to this point of decision-making.
Details of the events and outcomes of this week can be found at www.plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au Please see the schedule below for the livestreaming schedule.
I am very conscious of the Gospel reading for this weekend, (Luke 10:1-12,17-20) in which Jesus commissions and sends out seventy-two others.
At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way…….
I was also reminded of this on Saturday when Fr Matthew Muller and I travelled to gather with the people from both Taree and Wingham parishes. Part of our time with them was spent in assisting them with their pastoral planning processes, which they have already commenced with Fr Kevin Corrigan and their Parish Pastoral Councils. As I reflected on our time with them, I considered that in their diversity, they are a microcosm of those who are gathering this week at the Plenary Council.
We are such a broad church with people whose approach to belonging to the Catholic Church varies. I have no doubt that we are continually in need of the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, so that the diversity of views and ways of being Catholic do not divide us. At Taree, I witnessed grave concerns, from those gathered, for the way forward, not only for their parishes and local community but also for the universal church.
This also brought to mind my experience of last week, at which some diocesan leaders, both ordained and lay, gathered for the Australian Catholic University’s, Graduate Certificate in Mission and Culture. One group was doing the first unit in Mission Imperative, while the group I was with are studying unit three, in Interpreting the Bible for Leadership and Mission. We spent the week mostly looking at Mark’s Gospel. It may come as no surprise to you that I love learning, and our time reading and exploring Mark’s Gospel, and the how, what, when, where and why it was written was powerful for all concerned. Now the assignments await us, which is always a bit challenging but very formative.
This week, I hope you have the opportunity to join in the celebration of NAIDOC Week (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee), an invitation to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year’s theme is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! which is an invitation for systemic change, by rallying around Elders, mob and community. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are seeking proper environmental, cultural and heritage protections, Constitutional change, a comprehensive process of truth-telling, working towards treaties, or calling out racism. They are seeking to secure institutional, structural, collaborative, and cooperative reforms.
Many local events have however been postponed because of the bad weather. Please look to support your local events as they are held either this week or over the coming weeks.
In August, the diocese will be launching its first Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) for the whole of the diocese – our parishes, schools, CatholicCare, St Nicholas, and the Catholic Development Fund. This is a big step forward towards strengthening our knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories, and how we can support reconciliation across our diocese.
During the week you may like to open the prayer resources on the Plenary Council website. (https://plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/prayer/). Towards the bottom of the page, there are several videos of prayers and reflection psalms for you to explore and pray.
May we continue to say yes to being the labourers in the harvest.