Reigniting the flame of Plenary

By Richard McMahon, 5 January 2021
The Diocese of Parramatta delegates for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia are presented with candles lit from the Plenary Council candle during their Commissioning liturgy in Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


While to some, it may seem quiet in the Plenary space, a lot has been happening. We bring you an update and things you can do right now to be part of the process.

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ call for the Catholic Church to renew through the Plenary Council should be exciting for all Australian Catholics but for some, we may feel it doesn’t relate to us or won’t make a difference.

Right now, Plenary is helping us listen to the Spirit and make changes

Plenary is about “Listening to what the Spirit is saying in our everyday life.” Here are some of the creative ways our parishes have responded in the spirit of Plenary already:

  • developing online Mass, adoration, and other prayer services during the pandemic;
  • coordinating food drives, particularly for refugees and asylum seekers;
  • parishes in the Central Deanery developed an online hub to share resources for their communities;
  • small intentional online prayer groups, social circles and faith sharing networks are flourishing; and
  • The Well now brings videos and podcasts to support the faith of families, youth, schools and parishes.

Our Plenary feedback has formed proposals, being used to shape the Council agenda

Unsurprisingly, it took a year to sort the 222,000 responses and 17,457 submissions received.

Six theme-based writing groups have now published writing papers that capture the many views they wrestled with. They include over 150 proposals which can be found at

RELATED: Flame of Plenary comes to Parramatta

These proposals form the basis of a working document (called the Instrumentum Laboris), which will be further refined into the Plenary Council agenda.

Here is what else happened

  • The learnings of COVID-19 and the independent governance review into the Catholic Church were included in the proposals.
  • Council delegates were appointed. The delegates for the Diocese of Parramatta are meeting and listened to our parishioners through online sessions.

What can I do right now?

The Plenary is not just a council far removed from our day-to-day Catholic life. It’s a process that involves every Catholic who has the power to bring it to life whoever and wherever they are.

  1. Check in with what Plenary means for you

What are your emotions around Plenary and why? If they are negative, be honest with yourself and talk to God about how you feel this could be a chance to renew our Church.

  1. Become a torchbearer

Encourage others to be involved and renew their hope. Videos, information sheets and soon-to-be-released reflection guides can be shared with others.

  1. Identify your circle of influence and pass on the flame

Plenary is about gathering and prayerfully discerning together. How can you encourage groups of people you know to listen, discern and act?


Plenary is not simply a council sometime in the future. It is an everyday movement of the Holy Spirit, and we are called, each of us, to respond in prayer, hope and truth sharing, calling others into the shared space of gathering. Let us be the Good News of Plenary to one another, and to all whom Jesus Christ calls us to share the Good News with.

For more information on the Plenary Council, see their website –

Richard McMahon is the Director of Pastoral Planning in the Diocese of Parramatta.


This article was originally featured in the Summer 2020/2021 Edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine.


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