Crushing my cynicism about the ability of the Australian Bishops to listen to the people, I accepted the offer to become a local “animator” in my community. Now I feel that I am constantly bashing my head against a brick wall – people are proving to be mightily resistant to engaging with the Plenary Council, even the ones who go to Mass regularly and are generally visible in the parish.
I understand their disillusionment, their hurts and disappointments, their total lack of faith in the Bishops. I share these feelings with them. I understand those who have walked away from the Church and I understand why some are just holding on with their fingertips, knowing, like Peter, there is nowhere else to go. But the only hope we have right now for something better lies in the Plenary Council of 2020. It is a slim hope, I admit, but we have to take the chance.
The agenda for the Plenary Council has not yet been written. It will emerge from a process of discernment after all the submissions have been read, analysed, prayed over, reflected on and robustly discussed. This means that every voice matters. YOUR voice matters. I do not want to see the Plenary Council hijacked by organised extremists. We all have the right, by our baptism, to speak to the Bishops and to be heard. They are offering us the chance and we need to grab it with both hands and speak our truth to them.
Right now Listening and Dialogue sessions are taking place around the country. They are a process of contemplative dialogue – silent reflection, sharing our stories and experience of faith, respectfully listening and learning. I have found them to be powerful sources of hope.
I believe the Spirit is moving among us. These sessions provide a solid platform for making our own individual submissions to the Plenary Council website but you don’t need to have attended one to make a submission. The deadline is Ash Wednesday 6 March in 2019.
You will be asked three questions:
- What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?
- What questions do you have about the future of the Church for the Plenary Council to consider in 2020?
- Do you have a story of your experience of faith, or the Church, you would like to share?
What a wonderful opportunity for us to be heard! What a gift to be able to influence the agenda of the Council and to know that we have played our part in moving our Church from the past into the future. I say, don’t miss out. Watch the videos on the Plenary Council 2020 website, let yourself be inspired by the Spirit, find a group if you can, open your heart to listening to the Spirit and let your voice be heard.
The Bishops need us, the People of God, to save the Australian Church. They cannot do it without us.
Author: Patricia Gemmell
Patricia recently graduated with a Masters in Theology, is a member of the Australian Grail National Leadership Team and has been a parishioner of St Leonard’s, Naremburn, for 34 years.