Plenary members participate in a formative session, called to be inclusive in manner and outcomes
Perth Plenary Council members pose for a photograph at the Redemptorist Monastery in North Perth on 22 June 2021. Photo: Jamie O’Brien.
By Matthew Lau
“Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 28:19
Plenary Council Members from the Archdiocese of Perth have last month come together for a facilitated day of reflection and discernment on how Jesus’ followers might bear witness to the Trinity in today’s world.
Redemptorist Fr Edmond Nixon CSsR facilitated the workshop on Tuesday, 22 June at the Redemptorist Monastery in North Perth.
Most of the Perth Archdiocese’s Plenary Council Members (formerly known as delegates) were present for the formation session, which began with a reception hosted by the Redemptorist community and its mission partners.
Included in the welcome was a guided tour of the sanctuary murals in the monastery church dedicated to Saints Peter & Paul, where the attendees reflected briefly and prayed.
The day of formation included fellowship over lunch and afternoon tea gatherings to mingle.
Fr Nixon provided facilitated a presentation for the group, which entailed an open-ended examination of a series of vignettes that allowed the Members to reflect about and converse on a range of areas.
Beginning with “Enfolding the Plenary Council is the Mission of the Church so it might better witness to Jesus’ revelation of the Kingdom of God”, the seminar delved into Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.
Noting that the Spirit of God cannot be chained – in context with the Plenary Council – the next topic spoke of the need to keep an eye out for “God’s wildcards”.
Attendees socialise over pre-lunch drinks with the Redemptorist Monastery community on Tuesday, 22 June. Photo: Jamie O’Brien.
“They could appear in the form of persons or what they say; they might appear through accompanying events, new understandings, and unsolicited experiences,” Fr Nixon indicated.
“Contemporary new experiences for humanity have led to a new set of meanings, especially in Western cultures. In turn the new meanings experienced today require new language for understanding them, communicating them to others and for examining them. The Church exists in the midst of the new meanings that people are experiencing.”
“The collapse of frameworks in contemporary culture and the disjuncture that accompanies it will be the context in which the Plenary Council necessarily and prayerfully goes about its business.”
Fr Nixon then covered the issues of secularisation, citing Canadian Philosopher Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, before expounding how the Plenary Council needs to address the “cry of humanity” by actively going to where Christ has already gone before us.
“In short, the Gospel is most accurately heard and interpreted from the margins of society.”
How the Catholic Church should approach this new world, he added, was examined in Pope Francis’ methodology.
“His is not a process of tinkering around the edges of large challenges and formidable problems. The Holy Father is in for the ‘long game’,” Fr Nixon said.
“His process is ‘Synodality’ or ‘walking in faith together’. This is explained in simple terms in the 2021 Cardinal Bernadin Common Cause delivered by Cardinal Joseph Tobin CSsR on 3 May 2021.”
The monastery’s Oceania Leader of Mission then went on to unpack the prophet Isaiah’s pitch in his message across the ages to “enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, do not spare them; lengthen your ropes and strengthen your pegs”.
“The Plenary Council is called to be inclusive in manner and outcomes,” Fr Nixon stated.
“The Plenary Council shares with cultures and peoples the search for a new story, especially a new faith story for the followers of Jesus in the Australian experience.
“The new story is about a relationship between all people, their relationship with mother earth and their communion with the Divine.”
As Fr Nixon’s presentation concluded, he highlighted the Plenary Council’s call to encourage a missionary Church that comes out from the shadows to bring about Christ-shaped changes in the world.