New Councils offer advice on Royal Commission and Plenary

By Richard McMahon, 28 August 2018
Bishop Vincent Long addresses the combined meeting of Diocesan and Deanery Pastoral Councils. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


A strong demonstration of listening and dialogue was in evidence when Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv addressed the combined meeting of Diocesan and Deanery Pastoral Councils of the Diocese of Parramatta at St Andrews College, Marayong on Saturday 11 August 2018.

Bishop Vincent shared with the gathered council members his own insights into the challenges facing the post-Royal Commission Church, saying it was time to “move from clericalism to service, from individualism to partnership, from top down obedience to collegiality and collaboration, from a siege mentality to engagement, from confronting to listening, from culture warfare to dialogue, from imposing rules to accompanying with love.”

Bishop Vincent then opened up discussion with the council members, seeking their advice and feedback. In small groups, they discussed what they believed was needed in the post-Royal Commission Church, particularly around the themes of: restoration of trust in the church; governance; the place of women; and selection and training of candidates for the priesthood.

In the second session, Ms Lana Turvey-Collins, National Facilitator of Plenary Council 2020, offered an overview of the Plenary process and addressed a range of questions on Plenary. She spoke with great passion about the true courage of the bishops in opening up such a significant time of listening and dialogue with the church in Australia. Plenary Councils normally require a clear agenda and the bishops would have been in their rights to set such an agenda.

View images from the meeting below or click here.

However, they have trusted in the Holy Spirit, and offered the People of God to respond to the question of “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”

Among the questions asked was the concern of whether by opening up the question to everyone, would that water down our faith. Ms Turvey-Collins affirmed that the Plenary is built on our love for the Church and desire to hold to what is good while exploring how we can respond to our current culture. She said, “Our scripture and tradition are critical foundations for any discernment of the themes which will emerge as a result of this year’s consultation.”

A number of people questioned Ms Turvey-Collins on what strategies we might employ to engage with those we do not encounter at our Sunday worship. She invited participants to raise their hands if they knew of such a member in their own family or group of friends and associates. When everyone had raised their hands, Ms Turvey-Collins encouraged them to be the one to share the message and invite the question.

Concluding her remarks, Ms Turvey-Collins affirmed the wonderful spirit of collegiality she experienced among the Diocesan and Deanery Pastoral Councils. She said that while many Dioceses are developing forums for consultations to take place, our Diocese has in place a healthy structure for collegiality to thrive through the work of our councils.

Richard McMahon, Director of Pastoral Planning & Implementation for Parramatta Diocese, highlighted some of our Diocesan strategies to assist in engaging people with the spirit of Plenary. He said that the Small Group Booklet, produced by the Pastoral Planning Office, “offers a gentle way for a small group to gather and share in a step by step prayerful encounter of respectful listening and dialogue”. Parishes received quantities of this booklet, along with prayer cards, flyers, posters, banners and small pocket-sized cards to invite people into a conversation about the plenary question.

Further information and online resources are available at the Diocesan website at Council members loaded up their cars with boxes of Plenary materials to assist parishioners with sharing the Plenary invitation with others.

Council members planned for how to best engage with the Plenary and support their parishes. At the conclusion of the day, Bishop Vincent affirmed them in their role and thanked them for their service. The Diocesan and Deanery Pastoral Councils have only been operating for a little over six months, and will be taking on a significant role in both advising Bishop Vincent on key issues, and listening and dialoguing with people across the Diocese, particularly through the Plenary 2020 process.

To find out more about Plenary 2020 in the Diocese of Parramatta, visit our website or contact Richard or Tanya on


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