01 Aug 2022
Adelaide members reflect on final assembly
The Southern Cross August 2022
As the dust settled on the final assembly of the Plenary Council, The Southern Cross asked Adelaide members to give a brief reflection on their experience.
From time to time each family must sit down and talk. Talk about what is important and then make choices about what to do about that which was discussed. Such was the experience of our Diocesan Assembly held last September; such was the experience of the Plenary Council. When you only do something every 80 years it’s no wonder we were a little out of practice. As with any large family, there were a range of views, disagreements and above all a genuine desire to find common ground. This was not any kind of meeting; it was a meeting of people of faith. Never did we lose sight of the fact that our gathering was a gathering with God at the centre. We learnt that the Holy Spirit does not like games being played; we learnt that ‘perfect love can cast out fear’(1 John 4:18); we learnt what it was like to experience the Church as a communion; we learnt that where one starts is not always where one finishes; we learnt that the Plenary Council, although hard work at times, was a hopeful, confirming experience of the Holy Spirit’s guiding hand. All of which augurs well for the work here in the Archdiocese. God is good, good indeed. – Archbishop Patrick O’Regan
It was a remarkable experience of Church, a Church prompted by the Spirit to show its willingness to diversify in response to need. The round tables meant a lot: lay women and men, Religious, priests and bishops all grouped together, all on the same level. Starting with a Year of Grace announced by Archbishop Wilson for 2012/13, leading to four years of preparation in which 220,000 Catholics participated. Motions were passed in areas such as the First Australians, social justice, liturgy and prayer, the Third Rite, the role of women in ministry, ecology, formation for governance, repentance for evils, the calling to missionary discipleship. The Spirit leads through gentleness, patience, quietness, but can also knock us off our horse on the road to Damascus. That happened, on the role of the equal dignity of women, and the gathering listened again and went forward, a Spirit event, I believe. Overall there was new heart given to the saints. The sustained applause at the end said much. A new course of much good has been set in key areas. We thank God and must now live what we resolved. Come, Holy Spirit. – Emeritus Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ
My experience of the second assembly began with a sense of hope that it would be a space that engendered new understandings and commitments. The first sessions supported my hopes when motions addressing ‘Reconciliation and Healing’ passed. Subsequent discernment and voting on motions related to the equal dignity of women and men caused a disturbance that resulted in a change to the way we proceeded. The outpouring of grief from many in the room represented not only our personal feelings but those of many others who have struggled with the status of women in the Church and have held such high hopes for some progress during the Council. The fact that it was one of the most critical issues for many who engaged in discernment over the past four years intensified the emotion and incredulity. The decision to revise the program and take time to discuss and revisit the processes, and the motions, toward a new vote was a watershed moment. Through flexible, mature, and genuine discernment we were able to move forward together. I am incredibly grateful to have been a member and hope to actively promote implementation in my own diocese and beyond. – Monica Conway, Brighton parish
For me the week in Sydney was a blessed, yet challenging week. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to connect with so many beautiful people and hear about their experiences, faith and life journeys. I think the leaders of the whole Plenary experience have been blessed with the grace to wait on the voice of the Holy Spirit and to respond appropriately and again this was witnessed in the final assembly. Whether this has been an experience to reignite the Church into mission and evangelisation, time will tell. However, I’m greatly encouraged by the conversation that has begun and, like a snowball, will hopefully just continue to grow in strength and momentum as it moves back into diocese, parishes and individual lives. – Kiara Ryan, Aberfoyle Park parish
I think the process signifies a positive step forward for the Australian Church. Allowing voices to be heard at every step has led to powerful foundational action for our First Nations people, for our young people’s future in caring for our common home, and intentionality in providing space for women. The action of empathetically sitting with each other with our diversity of experience and encounters has given me an immense amount of hope going forward for voices not always at the table truly being heard, and believed. More importantly, this is now our foundation, which will act as a springboard for all future growth. It’s the beginning. – Maddy Forde, Australian Catholic University campus pastoral associate
I was privileged to be one of Adelaide’s members at the assembly. There were many heartfelt conversations with admirable lay people, religious sisters and brothers, priests and bishops from across the country. I focused on the patterns of critical issues resulting from the community consultations over four years. Some were addressed in a forthright manner with positive results and some were not. However, a new and powerful dialogue has begun. I am looking to the global gathering of bishops, the 2023 Synod of Bishops, with hope that it will address critical issues for the Church. At the Archdiocesan level, Adelaide is a leader in bringing lay engagement in governance through our Diocesan assemblies and implementation of our Diocesan Pastoral Council. – Ian Cameron, Emmaus parish
I was truly in awe of the Holy Spirit and how it transformed the second assembly. Personally, I felt there was a degree of uncertainty and reservation among members that was underlying from the beginning of the second assembly. The events that took place thereafter brought all that tension to the surface and together we had to discern how the Holy Spirit wanted us to proceed. This turning point forced us away from a predetermined ‘structured process’ and towards true listening and dialogue. The way we responded to these challenges gives me hope that the Church in Australia will listen and respond to the ongoing needs of our Church and I look forward to focusing on the implementation phase. – Julian Nguyen, Coordinator, Catholic Office for Youth and Young Adults
As tough as the week was – and it really was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting – I’m ultimately glad that the disappointment and disruption of earlier in the week happened. The motions passed were stronger, clearer and better as a result, and the raw, open listening and relationship building that happened took us to a place from which I think it will be difficult to return (in a good way). It became clear that calls for inclusion and greater recognition of women’s equality aren’t a fringe ‘progressive’ or ‘radical’ matter; they are central to Catholic Australians’ understanding of what their Church is, or should be; and by the end of the week, it was clear that the bishops understand that as well as anybody. – Claire Victory, National president, St Vincent de Paul Society
I left the Plenary Council with a great sense of hope and confidence for the Church in Australia. We were continually reminded that despite differences of vocations; bishops, priests, sisters, brothers, lay people, women or men, young or old, single or married we are of equal dignity before God and united by the Spirit and together called to seek what the Spirit is calling us to be and do in our land. This common purpose pervaded the whole time together even in the midst of moments that potentially could have divided us. Moving forward, I take with me the words of Archbishop Costelloe: renewal in the Church must be ‘Christ centred’, ‘we are all called to holiness of life’ and ‘to become missionary disciples’. – Fr Dean Marin, Vicar General
TEAM ADELAIDE: From left, back – Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ, Fr Dean Marin, Sarah Moffatt, Monica Conway, Claire Victory, Ian Cameron, Archbishop O’Regan; front – Maddy Forde, Kiara Ryan and Julian Nguyen.