The Diocese of Darwin last night became the first local Church to commission their delegates for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, the first assembly of which will open in Adelaide in 12 months’ time.
Given the postponement of the Plenary Council assemblies by a year due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel and public gatherings, it was proposed that dioceses consider commissioning their delegates on October 4, 2020 – the day the first assembly was due to commence.
Because restrictions remain in place in most parts of the country, a number of dioceses have chosen to delay the commissioning ceremonies until later this year or into next year.
With the Darwin Diocese due to host its Chrism Mass this week, though, it was decided that it was an opportune time for the Catholic community there to pray for their delegates.
Darwin Bishop Charles Gauci said leaders from across the diocese are currently undertaking a review of ministries.
“We must work towards always renewing the vision of the Church; we cannot continue with ‘business as usual’,” he said.
“We need to reach out to people and to nurture people. We need to know who we are not connecting with at all and with whom we are not connecting adequately.”
That will include reflecting on “the quality of our connections”.
“We need special emphasis on connecting with young people in effective ways. We also need to ensure that we have a special outreach and connection with our Aboriginal people. We need to provide ministry to all from the cradle to the grave,” Bishop Gauci said.
“As part of the larger Australian Church through the Plenary Council, we want to listen to the Holy Spirit calling us to be the Church that God wants us to be in this country.
“During the Chrism Mass, we commissioned our Plenary Council delegates to this same Council. We also committed ourselves to serving God where we are, here in the Northern Territory, according to the heart and mind of God.
“Our continued reflection and review of ministry across the diocese will be an integral part of our participation in the Plenary Council.”
The discernment of local priorities will similarly serve as an opportunity for other Plenary Council commissioning ceremonies. A number of dioceses that have planned synods or assemblies for 2021 will commission their delegates during those events.
Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said the commissioning of delegates in each diocese – regardless of when it takes place – underlines the nature of the Council.
“The Plenary Council is a gathering of the local Churches in Australia, so for the faithful to come together and pray for their local delegates, and especially ask for the Holy Spirit to guide them, delivers a powerful message,” he said.
“It is a sending forth of the delegates, saying ‘you go with our prayers and our support’, and encouraging them to attend the Council with an open heart and a discerning mind, helping the Church in Australia ponder the question: What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”