Plenary Council agenda asks difficult questions

27 Aug 2021

By The Record

Plenary Council President Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has recently speaking.
Plenary Council President Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has recently spoken about the upcoming assembly, which took three years and several layers of prayer, listening, dialogue and discernment, which opens on 3 October this year. Photo: Supplied.

The Fifth Plenary Council of Australia agenda calls those attending the assemblies to “develop concrete proposals to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia”.

The Plenary plan, which has emerged from three years and several layers of prayer, listening, dialogue and discernment, will shape the programme of the Council’s assemblies – the first of which opens on 3 October 2021.

The agenda’s preamble draws from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which explores the pontiff’s “dream of a ‘missionary option’.”

“That is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation,” the Holy Father wrote.

Plenary Council President Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said the invitation and exhortation to be a missionary people would run through the schedule.

“Through the Plenary Council, we are being called to consider how we can be a Church that goes out to the peripheries, that welcomes all into our communities and shows the face of Christ to the world,” Archbishop Costelloe stated.

The agenda has been developed to pose 16 questions falling under six themes: Conversion, Prayer, Formation, Structures, Governance, and Institutions.

“So much of what we heard during the Council journey related to this concept of ‘conversion’ – personal conversion, communal conversion, and institutional conversion – with an ever-deeper renewal in Christ.

“The agenda asks us several difficult questions, but without asking those difficult questions, we won’t be entering into the depth of our hearts to consider how we become that missionary, Christ-centred Church we need today.

“Each member attending the assemblies will bring their own unique gifts to the agenda on behalf of the People of God in Australia.”

Plenary Council Facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said the agenda, published on the Plenary Council website, asks questions with widespread relevance.

“These questions have been developed for a specific purpose – for prayer, conversation, discernment, and decision-making during the Plenary Council – but they are questions that can challenge each of us, each parish, each Church community,” she explained.

“In preparing for the Council and beyond, the agenda can be a rich source of reflection and contemplation in our own settings.”

Archbishop Costelloe asked people to continue to pray for the Council and its members who will attend the October 2021 assembly and subsequent July 2022 assembly.

More than 280 members nationwide began participating in focussed formation sessions in June 2021.

The 16 questions of the Plenary Council agenda follow in full


  • How might we better accompany one another on the journey of personal and communal conversion which mission in Australia requires? 
  • How might we heal the wounds of abuse, coming to see through the eyes of those who have been abused? 
  • How might the Church in Australia open in new ways to Indigenous ways of being Christian in spirituality, theology, liturgy, and missionary discipleship? How might we learn from the First Nations peoples? 
  • How might the Church in Australia meet the needs of the most vulnerable, go to the peripheries, be missionary in places that may be overlooked or left behind in contemporary Australia? How might we partner with others (Christians, people of other faiths, neighbourhood community groups, government) to do this? 
  • How might the Church in Australia respond to the call to ‘ecological conversion’? How can we express and promote a commitment to an ‘integral ecology of life’ in all its dimensions, with particular attention to the more vulnerable people and environments in our country and region? 


  • How might we become a more contemplative people, committing more deeply to prayer as a way of life, and celebrating the liturgy of the Church as an encounter with Christ who sends us out to “make disciples of all the nations”? 
  • How might we better embrace the diverse liturgical traditions of the Churches which make up the Catholic Church and the cultural gifts of immigrant communities to enrich the spirituality and worship of the Church in Australia? 


  • How might we better form leaders for mission – adults, children and families, couples and single people? 
  • How might we better equip ordained ministers to be enablers of missionary discipleship: the Church becoming more a “priestly people” served by the ordained ministry? 
  • How might formation, both pre- and post-ordination, better foster the development of bishops, priests and deacons as enablers of the universal Christian vocation to holiness lived in missionary discipleship? 


  • How might parishes better become local centres for the formation and animation of missionary disciples? 
  • How might the Church in Australia be better structured for mission, considering the parish, the diocese, religious orders, the PJPs and new communities? 


  • How might the People of God, lay and ordained, women and men, approach governance in the spirit of synodality and co-responsibility for more effective proclamation of the Gospel?
  • How might we recast governance at every level of the Church in Australia in a more missionary key? 


  • How might we better see the future of Catholic education (primary, secondary and tertiary) through a missionary lens? 
  • How might we better see the future of Catholic social services, agencies and health and aged care ministries as key missionary and evangelising agencies?

To view the agenda of the upcoming assembly, visit