The Instrumentum Laboris, or Working Document entitled Continuing the Journey, was released in February. The document outlines the issues that parishioners around Australia have raised in a summarised ‘update’ of the Catholic Church today.
Invoking the intercession of Our Lady Help of Christians, with the urging of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop to “never see a need without doing something about it”, Continuing the Journey tells us that the Plenary Council is an “opportunity to consider what steps must be taken to awaken awareness of the missionary vocation of every Catholic.”
We are not bound to wait until the conclusion of the Plenary Council before we act on the ideas contained in this Instrumentum Laboris or Working Document, which calls the Council to find “new ways to share the joy of the Gospel, with each other and with the communities in which we live.” (194)
Now as the preparation phase draws to its climax in the forthcoming agenda, Continuing the Journey provides a breathing space, with history, theology, reflection, suggestion and prayer.
Collecting all we have learned into a single readable document, it encourages us to consider all the needs we have identified, and then to “do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). We can follow the example of Mary at the foot of the cross and “stand in solidarity and compassion with each other, particularly the wounded, the poor and the traumatised. We, too, are called to be witnesses to the suffering of Jesus: relived in the many survivors of sexual abuse; in the pain of our First Nations peoples; and in the lives of all who suffer”. (205)
There is a treasure trove of references from the Bible, the documents of Vatican II, and Popes St John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. Research and other works of the Church in Australia, as well as the reports of the Listening and Dialogue phase – our own voices – also feature.
Continuing the Journey shows how diverse sectors of our complex, beautiful Church can be appreciated and affirmed. Taken together, the array of suggestions build up to a large but by no means impossible task, with something for each of us to do.
Continuing the Journey is well worth reading and reflecting on with others, especially those who have changed their involvement in the Church.
Your prayers for the Council and its Members are appreciated. May you find encouragement and inspiration in continuing the journey!
Continuing the Journey can be found at plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/instrumentum-laboris/
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.
Find details on how you can participate in the Plenary Council’s daily Masses and livestreamed sessions, our Diocese’s response to the Agenda questions and further resources including the Diocesan prayer for the Plenary Council at parracatholic.org/plenary-2021/
The official First Assembly Opening Mass will take place at 2pm on Sunday in Perth and can be viewed here.
Wendy Goonan is a Member of the Plenary Council from the Diocese of Parramatta.
This article was originally featured in the Ordinary Time/Winter 2021 Edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine.