It covered almost 10 months and culminated in a flurry of late submissions, but the Listening and Dialogue phase of the Plenary Council has yielded a remarkable foundation from which the people of God can move forward.
Late last week, the National Centre for Pastoral Research (NCPR) completed the statistical analysis and reported that more than 17,500 submissions had been lodged — thousands of which represented groups. In all, more than 222,000 people either made an individual submission or participated in a group discussion that culminated in a submission.
The NCPR will continue its quantitative and qualitative analysis of the stories that people have shared over the coming weeks. From that analysis, which will include prayer and discernment, national themes for discernment will emerge and be announced in June. Reports will be published on each of the themes and allow ongoing involvement for the large numbers of people who participated during the Listening and Dialogue phase.
Last week I visited Rockhampton and joined 170 people from all parts of the Rocky Diocese for their diocesan assembly – the culmination of two years of listening sessions across the region. The opening pages of the handbook for the assembly described it as a gathering to “focus on the mission of the Diocese and those topics with a ‘Whole of Diocese’ perspective that emerged from the listening sessions”.
It was an experience of a truly synodal Church: the people of God gathered together, speaking truth, listening deeply to one another and to the Holy Spirit and making decisions together. The gifts of many contributed to making the whole event a resounding success and I have no doubt that the resulting pastoral plan and strategic directions for the Catholic communities of the Diocese of Rockhampton will chart a missionary pathway toward a strong and faith-filled future.
Even though the Listening and Dialogue stage for the Plenary Council is closed, I encourage all people to continue the habit of dialogue. Continue speaking with one another, sharing your stories of faith, courageously asking questions to understand one another more deeply and letting God guide our decisions for mission. Doing this can bring about deep encounters with Christ, it can transform and form culture towards God’s mission and renew all of us as the Church.
Right now, the Plenary Council facilitation team is working on the advertisements, job descriptions, terms of reference and other supporting collateral for the Working Groups – the collaborative teams of people who will draft the papers in response to the Listening and Dialogue submissions. Those papers will become the foundation for the Plenary Council agenda.
Stay tuned to this newsletter for more information on the Working Groups. In the meantime, celebrate the achievement of over 222,000 people having been a part of the process until now and think about the kind of Church we are becoming through the encounter of Christ in one another.
Thanks to all of you. Your giftedness, faithfulness and resilience is inspiring.
Lana Turney-Collins is a member of the Plenary Council Facilitation Team.
Visit the Plenary Council website at www.plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au
With thanks to the ACBC.