Plenary Council agenda: missionary, Christ-centred Church
September 15, 2021
The agenda of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia calls those attending the Council assemblies to “develop concrete proposals to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia”.
The Council agenda, which has emerged from three years and several layers of prayer, listening, dialogue and discernment, will shape the program of the Council’s assemblies – the first of which opens on October 3 this year.
The agenda’s preamble draws from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which explores the Pope’s “dream of a ‘missionary option’”.
“That is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation,” the Pope wrote.
Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said that invitation and exhortation to be a missionary people runs through the agenda.
“Through the Plenary Council, we are being called to consider how we can be a Church that goes out to the peripheries, that welcomes all into our communities and shows the face of Christ to the world,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
The agenda has been developed in the form of posing questions, with 16 questions falling under six themes: Conversion; Prayer; Formation; Structures; Governance; and Institutions.
“So much of what we heard during the Council journey related to this concept of ‘conversion’ – personal conversion, communal conversion and institutional conversion – with an ever-deeper renewal in Christ,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“The agenda asks us a number of difficult questions, but without asking those difficult questions, we won’t be entering into the depth of our hearts to consider how we become that missionary, Christ-centred Church we need today.
“Each member attending the assemblies will bring their own unique gifts to the agenda on behalf of the People of God in Australia.”
Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said the agenda, which has now been published on the Plenary Council website, asks questions with widespread relevance.
“These questions have been developed for a specific purpose – for prayer, conversation, discernment and decision-making during the Plenary Council – but they are questions that can challenge each of us, each parish, each Church community,” she said.
“In preparing for the Council and beyond, the agenda can be a rich source of reflection and contemplation in our own settings.”
Archbishop Costelloe asked people to continue to pray for the Council and for the members who will attend the assemblies. The more than 280 members will be participating in focused formation sessions starting this week.
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Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.