Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has last month asked how we can, as the Catholic Community of the Archdiocese of Perth, strengthen and deepen our identity as first of all, a Christian community.
Archbishop Costelloe was speaking to delegates at the Formation Day for the Archdiocesan Assembly, which was attended by some 110 delegates and was held at Newman College on 23 September.
Seated in tables of six people, delegates from all walks of life across the Archdiocese were brought together, including priests, sisters, men, women, young and old with the aim of undertaking a listening and discernment process ahead of the main Assembly Day scheduled for July 2024.
Delegates also included Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, Vicar General the Very Rev Fr Peter Whitely VG and Episcopal Vicar for Clergy, the Very Rev Fr Minh-Thuy Nguyen and Episcopal Vicar for Education and Faith Formation, the Very Rev Fr Vincent Glynn, who is Chair of the Assembly Strategic working Group.
The Formation Day commenced with prayer co-ordinated by Director of Liturgy, Sr Kerry Willison rsm before MC Tara Peters invited delegates to spend some time introducing themselves to each other.
Archbishop Costelloe then led the first speech, drawing upon the experience of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, and his role as President, in speaking about What is a Diocesan Assembly and the recommendations of a Diocesan Pastoral Council.
Archbishop Costelloe highlighted to Assembly delegates the Decree of the Plenary Council that each diocese should be governed in a Synodal manner through the creation of a Diocesan Pastoral Council.
He also discussed in particular how the Archdiocese can express the direction of Pope Francis to be more synodal in its actions, pastoral strategies and governance models.
Archbishop Costelloe began by explaining to all present the historical context of the Assembly and its link to the Year of Grace in 2012 and the recent Plenary Council of the Church in Australia
We are nothing, Archbishop Costelloe emphasised, if we are not disciples of Jesus, if that is not the thing that holds us together, then we have no purpose to exist.
“We follow Him, He is our way and that is what we need to rediscover.
“It is, some of you will remember what I said as my hope for the diocese, when I became the Archbishop, that as a community of disciples, we would return the Church in Perth to Christ and return Christ to the very heart of the Church, so that everything else is seen through the lens of our following of Jesus.”
“I am hoping that what we are doing here today and what will unfold from today, will always have that as a central focus that we never forget that because without that, we can tend to get lost in all sorts of things,” he added.
Delegates were then invited to have a Group Discussion, in which they were asked, “Did anything in Archbishop Costelloe’s address resonate with you?”
Office of Christian Initiation Director and Office of Parish Renewal Support Officer, Dr Carmel Suart then led the delegates in a presentation that looked at the Diocesan Pastoral Council within Canon Law.
Dr Suart highlighted that a DPC has a canonical basis and is an advisory body to the bishop of diocese, and that a DPC membership is comprised of clergy, religious and the baptised faithful.
Episcopal Vicar, Education and Faith Formation, the Very Rev Fr Vincent Glynn then presented to the delegates the Ignatian method of the Seven Steps of Listening and Discernment, emphasising that at its core, the objective of the Assembly is to listen with the ears of the heart.
“So how do we do this listening and discernment?” asked Fr Vincent.
“We’re going to do so by listening together, listening together, to the Word of God, given to us in Scripture, the living tradition of the Church that has been handed down to us, and then by listening to one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Listening, Fr Vincent explained, means that we open our ears, our minds, and our hearts to the voice and action of the Holy Spirit.
“When we listen, it also means that we have this ability to discern individually and as a community because when we are listening, we hear the Spirit speaking to us and to each other. This listening to the Spirit is what enables us to then discern where the Spirit is leading us as a group of delegates within this journeying together in the Spirit.”
Returning from lunch, delegates, were then led through an experience of the Listening and Discernment process by Dr Angela McCarthy.
This Listening and discernment took place within the table groups., with each table group called to discern the question: As we look towards the establishment of a Diocesan Pastoral Council, how can we be an authentic expression of Synodality? Each table then shared the response of their key points of the discernment process.
Delegates have now been invited to participate in further Listening and Discernment sessions throughout the Archdiocese in the coming months in the lead up to the Assembly in July 2024.
For more information about the Archdiocesan Assembly, visit https://www.perthcatholic.org.au/Our_Archdiocese-Archdiocesan_Assembly_202324.htm