Over the past few weeks, Catholic Outlook has been sharing the stories, insights and opinions of people all around the Diocese of Parramatta as we prepare for the First Assembly of the Plenary Council.
While all stories have been different, a theme of each encounter has been the importance of using your voice and “having a say”.
This point resonated very strongly with Kristin (Kris) Borg, who is a parishioner at Sacred Heart Parish, Luddenham-Warragamba and works as the Sacramental Program and Special Religious Education coordinator at St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie.
Kris was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus and is currently preparing for major surgery. Her experience of disability has inspired her passion for accessibility, welcome and connection, even in areas of faith. “I love making faith tangible, accessible, engaging and relatable to as many children, young adults and parents as possible,” she said.
This passion to make faith sharable and relatable is what inspired Kris to get involved in Plenary proceedings. “From the start of the process,” she said, “I’ve been very interested in helping to organise schedules, sessions and presentations to reach as many people as possible.” For Kris, it’s so important that Catholics in Australia see the Plenary Council as the time to have their say. “This is our opportunity to truly be heard, to put pen to paper and know someone will look at it and mark down the thoughts and feelings expressed,” she said. “That is super exciting to me.”
When reflecting on the Plenary Council agenda, Kris was struck by areas relating to youth, and hopes the Plenary will help young people feel more excited about their faith. “I was most interested in the topics of Prayer, Formation and Structures,” she said. “I feel the Plenary is an opportunity to make faith more open, touchable, interactive, and maybe even exciting for youth and many other people, now and into the future.”
Kris identified hurt and communication as possible challenges. She heard experiences of pain, anger, confusion and disappointment expressed by Catholics from all walks of life during the discussion sessions in which she participated.
Kris feels helping these experiences and emotions to be expressed is crucial. “Some have so much to say, and can’t direct into structured thoughts and feelings,” she said. “These people’s innermost experiences are being missed, and it’s these that I believe need to be heard the most.”
Kris also believed language barriers, both interculturally and within the Church, could be an obstacle. “The Church uses some terms that laypeople have no understanding of, and for people to understand the language of the Plenary process, they need the opportunity to have things explained and to voice their thoughts properly,” she said.
Kris is hopeful about what the Council will facilitate. “I’d like to see a Church more open and inclusive, more willing to acknowledge its downfalls and do something about them, and more willing to move with the times while still keeping Christ at the centre,” she said.
For Kris, it’s so important for as many people as possible to be involved. “I am part of the future of the Church,” she said. “Parish populations are changing with declining numbers or larger numbers of hardworking migrant and refugee families. It is the people who remain who will take the Church into the future, and I want to think about and express my thoughts and feelings – at least then I can say I ’gave it a go’!”
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/
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv will say a special Mass this Sunday 3 October at 11am for the Plenary Council. View the livestream on the St Patrick’s Cathedral Facebook page.
The official First Assembly Opening Mass will take place at 2pm on Sunday in Perth and can be viewed here.