When the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Commission announced the beginnings of Plenary Council 2020, they chose as the Council’s theme, “Listen to what the Spirit is saying”. For Peter Loughnane, Executive Director of CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains (WSBM), this listening is at the heart of our call as Australian Catholics.
Peter, who is originally from Townsville, began his role with Catholic Care within the Diocese of Parramatta in January 2020. At the time, he had been thinking more about his engagement with his faith and seeing how he could influence. “When I joined Catholic Care COVID had just started to have an impact on the region. As a team we needed to quickly look for new ways to come together as an organisation and with the clients and communities we serve. It was incredibly inspiring to see how staff have responded and have continued to do so in their day-to-day work with clients and community groups.”
Being inclusive and available are important values for Peter and are key elements of what the Plenary Council is trying to achieve. Although Peter says he hasn’t had much involvement in preparation for the Plenary Council, he is very aligned with Bishop Vincent’s vision of “going out into the deep”. He says, Government and non-government funders are increasingly looking for greater efficiencies and innovation in the provision of services. The global pandemic is forcing us to deliver services differently. And we know that many people who need our support continue to fall through the cracks. We must consider how we best serve our community beyond business as usual.
The Plenary Council’s agenda encourages us to consider a broad range of situations and perspectives affecting the Church today and into the future. Catholic Care’s values are informed by Catholic Social Teaching. “They frame our work in attending to the needs of all people, with a focus on the vulnerable and disadvantaged, regardless of faith, religion, gender, ethnicity, age or socio-economic background,” Peter says. He believes the Council’s discussions and insights will encourage an even greater focus on engagement with more vulnerable members of our communities.
Peter is committed to working with the Plenary Council to ensure the Church remains relevant and engaged with the communities it supports. It’s important that the wonderful work Catholic Care does throughout the region not only continues but grows in response to community need. We will continue to engage and consult with the people of the region. We will initiate community-led projects that involve and inform residents so we can develop programs and services where they are needed. “We can’t achieve these outcomes on our own. We will also continue to work with the parishes and members of the Church in partnership, to provide the opportunities, activities and experiences that sustain peoples’ purpose in life.”
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.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was first published.