In framing the central question for the Plenary Council:
‘What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?’
The Architects for the Plenary have place discernment at the very heart of the Council journey. Throughout the process so far, community engagement together with prayer have been central to it. The Plenary Organisers asked the people of Australia to respond to the questions:
- ‘What does it mean to belong to the Catholic Church in Australia at this particular moment in our history?
- ‘What is God is asking of us and His Church now and into the future?’
The Council is challenging us to “Listen to what the Spirit is saying”
A significant number of our Catholic people responded to the consultation process. There were 17, 457 formal submissions representing the contributions of more than 222,000 people. These contributions do, indeed express the joys and hope, grief and anxieties of so many members of the church, echoing the sentiments of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council as expressed in the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World – ‘Gaudium et Spes’ of 8 September 1965
SIGNS OF THE TIMES – MANY VOICES
It can be presumed that these contributions give voice to people’s individual and communal experiences regarding the life in the Church today. From these contributions, as the working document for the Plenary states, a ‘picture of light and shadow emerges’.
It is very clear that many Catholics, for a variety of reasons, did not engage in this discernment process. It has become evident that the Plenary Council needs to interpret this silence as a ‘Sign of the Times’, attending to the voices of those who did not respond. The Plenary Delegates much be conscious of these many voices and consider what this means.
The Challenge: How are we to ‘catch’ the voice of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the many voices, spoken and unspoken, calling the Church to listen during the process of this plenary?
An initial analysis of some of the major themes emerging is encapsulated in the following aspirations for the church:
- A Christ centred church which is humble, healing and merciful; a church which is inclusive, participative and synodal; and a church which is prayerful and Eucharistic; a Church which is missionary and evangelising; a church which is open to conversation, renewal and reform, and a church which is joyful, hope-filled and servant community.
(Para 13 Instrumentation Labours- working document ‘Continuing the journey for the fifth Plenary Council of Australia)
Indeed these themes are highly aspirational, voiced with urgency, with love and in hope.
Along with the whole Church in Australia, the Military Diocese is challenged to renew itself and re-energize its mission of bring Christ’s reconciling love to all who serve in the Australian Defence with their families. The Military Diocese is called to be the presence of God’s light and love within our community through its Chaplains and all our people. As we prepare at this time for a new Bishop, might the many voices of our Church lead us as a military community in listening to what the Spirit is asking of us as a Military Diocese now and into the future. May these voices with their hopes and joys, griefs and anxieties, resonate within us.
You are very much invited to respond as members and friends of our Catholic Military community through the following: