With fewer than five weeks to go before the First Assembly of the Plenary Council, parishioners in the Diocese of Parramatta are invited to re-engage in what will be the largest discussion about the future of the Catholic Church in Australia. To help them do so, the Diocese of Parramatta has a new prayer, as well as a new website summarizing key information about the Plenary Council.
“We encourage people in our Diocese to explore what’s happening, discuss the issues and support the Plenary Council process through prayer,” says Sr Grace Roclawska, Head of Formation for Mission in the Diocese of Parramatta.
Related: Why a Plenary Council?
The prayer for the Plenary Council was written by Wendy Goonan and Carol Teodori-Blahut, the two lay Members of the Plenary Council from the Diocese of Parramatta.
Wendy, who was born and raised in regional NSW and has lived in the Diocese of Parramatta since 1986, describes writing a prayer that would be published as a challenging project. Composing the prayer with the existing Plenary Council prayer in mind, Wendy says she and Carol wanted it to have a humble, “Parramatta” voice. “We wanted the prayer to remind us that in the Diocese of Parramatta we strive to go out into the deep, beyond our comfort zone, in order to reach the people and country who need our care.”
Carol, who is originally from the United States, moved to Australia with her husband Len in 2012 and has been an active member of the Diocese since that time. “The Parramatta Plenary prayer was a wonderful opportunity to bring our Diocese’s flavour to prayer”, she says.
Both Carol and Wendy describe the writing process as a team effort. The prayer was presented to Bishop Vincent and all members of the Plenary Council from the Diocese of Parramatta, and was accepted with great enthusiasm. Bishop Vincent also had an important role to play in the artistic design. “He suggested the image of the Three Sisters for the background illustration”, says Wendy.
At its heart, the prayer reflects the Plenary Council theme: Listen to what the Spirit is saying. “It acknowledges the presence of the Holy Spirit in Australia since long before Catholicism was established here, and asks for inspiration, energy and wisdom during and beyond the Plenary Council”, Wendy says.
The prayer is also quite relevant to the current pandemic situation, says Carol. “The challenges of COVID-19 are a very real part of our Plenary Council now, not only in adapting to changing conditions but how these times will impact what we are attempting to address. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to be our guide.”
Carol and Wendy carry great hope for the Council and for the prayer they have written, which they would love to be used beyond the Plenary gatherings. “I hope the prayer will remind us that we need the Holy Spirit, we need to listen, act with vigour, and recognise the presence of Christ in the people we are with”, Wendy says. Looking to the future is also important for Carol. “It is an honour to be part of something so important to the future of our Church”, she says. “We must rely on the Holy Spirit to be our guide.”
The prayer card which can be downloaded from the Diocese of Parramatta Plenary Council website, also features the artwork My Universe by Aunty Janice Kennedy, an Elder at Aboriginal Catholic Services in Emerton.
The new website at parracatholic.org/plenary-2021 directs parishioners to key documents including the Agenda of the first assembly, information about the Members from the Diocese of Parramatta, and feedback from parishioners from the Diocese who took part in the Listening phase. There are also quick links to the national Plenary Council resources. The prayer card can be downloaded from this link.
The Members of the Plenary Council want to hear from parishioners on what they think about the questions on the Agenda. Feedback can be sent to email@example.com so it can be passed onto them. In coming weeks we will also be featuring the thoughts on the Agenda questions from parishioners in our Diocese on Catholic Outlook.