“What do you think God is asking of Australia at this time?”
This is the foundational question of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, which begins on October 3. For Len Cruz, a parishioner at Mary, Queen of the Family Parish in Blacktown, this question has a simple answer: love, involvement, and inclusivity.
Len, who was born in the Philippines, migrated to Australia with her family in 1987. Prior to that time, she had been working for five years as a teacher in Nigeria, a period she describes as both beautiful and challenging. When she moved to Doonside in 1990, she began attending St Patrick’s church in Blacktown. She describes the parish as her second home. “When I moved to the area, I struggled to feel welcome and I was just attending the church for Mass. But when my son started preparation for First Communion and Reconciliation, I became more involved in the parish. I love my parish, and the people there are like my extended family.”
Involvement in Church and parish life is so important for Len. During the planning process ahead of the Council’s First Assembly, she participated in several discernment gatherings involving Council members from the Diocese of Parramatta. Hearing the reflections and sharing of the members, she wondered how they would manage with the Assemblies being officiated online. “In my heart, I wonder about the pandemic, how the members are managing, if each parish has had enough time, and how the online gathering will affect participation.”
Reading the agenda topics, Len felt they resonated deeply with her and hopes that the coming discussion will be open and inclusive. “I hope that there will be enough listening and sharing, for everyone’s voice to be heard and that all groups will be included. And I hope the topics are not discriminatory,” she says. She sees attentive listening as a possible challenge facing the members present at the Council. “Listening is very important. And many people could be feeling voiceless and not listened to.”
As someone very involved in parish life and community ministry, Len is excited at the initiatives happening in the Diocese, particularly interfaith initiatives, the HOME Ground online gathering program, the Alive in the Spirit conference, and work with migrants and refugees. She prays that the Plenary will strengthen these initiatives and, above all, will encourage more people, especially youth, to be involved in the Church and to own their faith. “Some people are just baptised Catholic and that’s it. But you need to practice your faith, participate, and listen to and welcome others. I hope people will come back to the churches once lockdown ends, and parishes will work hard to welcome people back. And I hope there will be a greater love of the Church, because the Church is us.”
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 email@example.com. 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.