‘Listen deeply’ for the Holy Spirit, Plenary Council members advised – The Catholic Leader

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

ONE of the youngest participants in Australia’s historic Plenary Council meeting is taking seriously the advice “to listen deeply for the voice and to be alert to the leadings of the Holy Spirit”.

‘Listen deeply’ for the Holy Spirit, Plenary Council members advised – The Catholic Leader

23-year-old youth ministry worker, Thomas Warren, from Albany Creek in Brisbane is one of 278 Catholic members – bishops, priests, deacons, members of religious orders and laypeople – spending this week in prayers, reflection and discussion about the serious challenges facing the Church in Australia today.

“I think my big passion is ‘where does the Church fit in to society,” Mr Warren said.

“How are we helping the poor, how are we helping those less fortunate than us, how we are continuing Jesus’ ministry.

“And I guess I see quite a few members really liking to focus on other things… like adoration. I guess I’m already seeing that happening and there’s already a focus on that.

“So I’d love to see more focus placed on the inclusive side – how do we get more women into the Church, how do we include indigenous spirituality and learn from that, and how do we focus on the poor.”

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney celebrates the opening Mass for Sydney members of the first assembly of the Plenary Council in Sydne. The Oct. 3-10 assembly brings together — both online and in person — some 278 bishops, priests, deacons, members of religious orders and laypeople for prayer, reflection and discussion. Photo: CNS courtesy Giovanni Portelli, Australian bishops’ conference

The Fifth Plenary Council assembly – the first meeting of its kind since 1937 – began meetings on Monday.

Pope Francis sent greetings and blessings from Rome. In a message read out during the opening session Francis said the Plenary Council “represents a singular ‘journeying together’ of God’s people in Australia along the paths of history towards a renewed encounter with the Risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

Some of the biggest challenges Plenary members are expected to grapple with include how the Church moves forward after the damning findings of a child sex abuse royal commission, shrinking church attendances, a shortage of priests and how to increase the role of women.

Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe reminded the hundreds of members meeting virtually across Australia “to listen deeply for the voice and to be alert to the leadings of the Holy Spirit”.

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“The restrictions imposed by the pandemic will not prevent the Holy Spirit from moving our minds and our hearts if we remain open to that Spirit,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

Members are being asked to use their discernment to reflect on questions, concerns and suggestions that arose from a nationwide consultation with Catholics that began more than three years ago.

Through consultation, about 220,000 people responded to the question “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”

A plenary council was called to consult on issues facing the Church in Australia; it can issue decrees that, once approved by the Vatican, are binding.

In his opening address, Archbishop Costelloe did not shy away from the biggest issue that has bruised the Church in recent times.

“… the Catholic community in Australia has had to face the reality of our betrayal of so many of our young people through the horror of sexual abuse,” he said.

“So many lives have been diminished and even destroyed because of this dreadful failure.

“We carry the weight of the shame with us into this assembly, and equally we also carry an unshakable conviction that our care for those who have suffered so much, and our responsibility to make our Church settings places of safety and security for our children, our young people and vulnerable adults, must remain two fundamental aspects of our life and ministry as the Church in Australia.

“This reality is surely one of the “signs of the times” which we are called to discern in the light of the gospel.”

Thomas Warren said the relevance of the Church today was a big issue in his heart.

Plenary Council member Thomas Warren: “If we are not going out and making the changes and helping the poor, healing the sick and clothing the unclothed then there really is no point to being a Catholic”

He said said he had felt challenged by his brother, who is outside the Church, and had asked him ‘What is the point of having a church if there is no outward connection with the world?’

“If we are not going out and making the changes and helping the poor, healing the sick and clothing the unclothed then there really is no point to being a Catholic,” Mr Warren said.

“I think that has been sitting with me, but it has been strengthened and emboldened as I’ve joined the Plenary Council.”

Earlier on Monday – the Feast of St Francis of Assisi – Bishop Mackinlay, the Bishop of Sandhurst and the Plenary Council’s vice-president, celebrated Mass for the first day of the Council’s program.

Reflecting on the story of Francis as a young man, hearing Jesus invite him to “rebuild my Church”, Bishop Mackinlay said the saint’s initial inclination to repair a building gave way to an understanding that the Church of Christ was in need of renewal.

The Bishop of Sandhurst, Shane Mackinlay delivered a message of hope as he celebrated Mass on the first day of the Plenary Council’s program.

Bishop Mackinlay said in his homily: “During this Plenary Council, we too are seeking to rebuild Christ’s Church, responding in a very concrete way to Pope Francis’ repeated call for us to become a more synodal church: a Church committed to journeying together in reciprocal listening to one another, listening to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, and most importantly listening to the Holy Spirit; a Church which gives witness to the Christian vision of community, participation, solidarity and joint responsibility.”

“As St Francis was called to rebuild Christ’s Church, may we during this Plenary Council be inspired, encouraged and renewed by his vision and commitment, to turn again towards all our sisters and brothers, as stewards together of God’s extraordinary creation.

“In this way, may we in this time work to ‘create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia’.”

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