Catholic groups gather for national online consultation

29 Jul 2021

By The Record

A zoom meeting, showing a screen filled with 25 people's faces as they tune in from home, participating in the discussion.
Leaders from ecclesial communities and lay movements from across the country have last week come together for the first time to explore ways of identifying, networking and supporting communities into the future. Photo: Supplied.

More than 50 groups have taken part in a national consultation with Catholic ecclesial communities and lay movements, held online last week.

Almost 100 representatives of those groups explored ways of identifying, networking and supporting communities into the future.

The consultation was hosted by the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry, with Commission Chair Archbishop Christopher Prowse and Archbishop Julian Porteous, Bishop Delegate for Ecclesial Communities, both participating.

Commission Executive Secretary Clara Geoghegan facilitated the conversation.

Archbishop Porteous said the event, believed to be the first of its kind, was significant in that it brought together people from a diverse range of groups, each with their own unique gifts.

“This is a moment of encouragement and inspiration and a clear indication that the Holy Spirit is present and active in the Church here in Australia,” he said.

“Communities are a great gift. They’re a very particular gift at this moment in our history. We’ve always had various movements in the Church, but there is a fresh outpouring of grace associated with the movements in our time.

“I’m hoping … we can build those relationships between the bishops and the various ecclesial movements, and through this we’ll be able to work closer together, more in harmony with one another and together advance the life and mission of the Church in Australia.”

Verbum Dei Missionary Maria Pineda, who provided a personal reflection during the event, suggested the development of a database of communities and movements would be a helpful resource.

“I feel that the ecclesial communities are not as well-known as we would like, in terms of what we can offer the Church and offer to the life of the Church, particularly in the task of evangelising,” she said.

“But the consultation was a great start to be able to improve that.”

Shayne Bennett, the Oceania representative of Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service (CHARIS), said it was encouraging to hear about different communities and movements working collaboratively.

“I think it’s a really good thing that we can appreciate one another, that we’re not about building barriers between one another,” he said.

“We can see and acknowledge the good, and acknowledge the action of the Spirit within one another.”

Many ideas and suggestions were discussed during the consultation, such as the creation of a communications network for ecclesial communities, the need for greater understanding of lay movements and facilitating regular dialogue between communities and bishops.

Participants were asked to submit their feedback via email, with contributions set to be collated into a final report, which will be presented to the Bishops Commission next month.