Twice a year, consecrated women and men from the Diocese of Parramatta gather for prayer, networking and fellowship. It’s something we look forward to; a place to reconnect with old friends and to meet new ones, a time to celebrate milestones and listen to input and sharing. With current COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown in place, our recent gathering on Thursday, September 16 moved from in-person to online connection. The invitation was extended to consecrated persons within the Diocese and beyond, and we had over 105 people from all around Australia – the largest group ever – register and take part.
The theme of our gathering was the upcoming Plenary Council. After being welcomed by Bishop Vincent we were treated to an excellent keynote presentation delivered by Andrea Dean who, until recently, worked in the ACBC Office of Lay Pastoral Ministry and the Office of Women, and is the current chair of Women and the Australian Catholic Church (WATAC). With Andrea, we explored the call to listening and the capacity for growth and transformation which is at the heart of the Plenary Council’s planning and discernment stages.
During the gathering, we also had the opportunity to meet Fr Fernando Montano and Wendy Goonan, Members of the Plenary Council from the Diocese of Parramatta, and to hear their feelings ahead of the gathering. Both expressed a hopefulness and enthusiasm, but also a sense of apprehension. “I’m a bit nervous”, Fr Fernando said, “as I’ve never attended any gathering like this before.” When asked about his own hopes for the Council, Bishop Vincent said, “I’m more than hopeful. I would like us to work with the Plenary Council in having courage and a sense of boldness to rebuild the Church in Australia.” Bishop Vincent also encouraged us to remember and hold on to the truth that a “better future” requires we become a “different people”: that it really does begin with us.
And what was the general feeling of those in attendance? At several points throughout the gathering, we were given the opportunity to engage in smaller discussions on our feelings ahead of the Council’s First Assembly. As we all came together and were invited to share our reflections openly, several participants described their hopefulness at what is to come and their excitement for the future. Some honestly acknowledged feelings of apprehension. Others spoke of the need to remember that big changes have small beginnings, and it was this point that really resonated with me. We might have our own questions or concerns regarding the outcomes of the Council, or whether people’s hopes or aspirations will be met, but the reality is this: the big steps of the future really do begin with the small yet bold and courageous steps we take today.
The first assembly of the Plenary Council will see nearly 280 members drawn from all Catholic dioceses in Australia, meeting online to discuss the Agenda questions from 3 to 10 October 2021. You are invited to consider the Agenda questions and provide your feedback to them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Your feedback will be passed to the members of the Plenary Council from the Diocese of Parramatta.
Find details on the Plenary Council, our Diocese’s response and further resources including the Diocesan prayer for the Plenary Council here.