On the evening of Thursday 29 September, many of the Religious sisters, brothers and priests of the Diocese of Parramatta gathered with Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, to celebrate Eucharist followed by a shared meal.
During the dinner, which was held in the John Paul II Hall at Marayong, National President of the St Vincent de Paul Society Australia, Claire Victory, shared her insights as a Member of the recent Plenary Council on the three-day gathering held in Sydney in early July.
In introducing Claire, Bishop Vincent described her as a passionate social justice advocate and a representative of the voice of young Australian Catholic women.
“Her concerns about social justice in all its manifestations, including gender, ecology, indigeneity, marginality and minority, were brought to the Plenary Council and she championed what she saw as the heart of the Gospel,” Bishop Vincent said.
“She is in many ways the steward and the keeper of the flame that we religious have endeavoured to pass on.”
All appreciated hearing from Claire’s perspective about the events and experiences of this important and quite historic event for our Australian Catholic Church. She affirmed the processes of listening and discernment, noting that these were embraced with sincerity by all the members. The depth of the participants’ capacity to listen to the movement of the Spirit in each other became evident when the motion regarding Women’s participation in the Diaconate ministry was not passed by the deliberative vote of the Bishops. Claire noted that following an interruptive moment in the Assembly, the motion was returned to the Bishops for renewed listening and consideration before it was finally passed.
Claire also observed that listening, sharing and clarifying ideas took place not only in formal group sessions during the Plenary gathering, but also outside these structured times. She felt that the participants’ engagement with deep listening to the other enlarged the interpersonal space promoting growth and understanding for all. There was also a sense of a growing experience of solidarity among the members as they endeavoured to work for an experience of Church that was more inclusive.
Following the talk, there was an opportunity for questions and interaction with both Claire and Bishop Vincent. Several commented on the strength of the process. It was noted that the experience of sharing during the evening reflected the spirit of the early Christian community. This was evident both in the respect shown to our first-hand witnesses at the Plenary Council and in the sincere desire for a deeper awakening of the movement and power of the Holy Spirit intent on listening and renewal.
Sr Patty Andrew osu is an Ursuline Sister in the Diocese of Parramatta. As well as teaching on faith and spirituality matters, she is a chaplain with Kairos Outside for Women, a support organisation for women with incarcerated relatives.