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PLENARY 2020 – Claremont Parish Plenary Council animators motivated by faith


Ann Johnston and Ralph Goodman from St Thomas the Apostle, Claremont Parish. Photo: Olivia Bunter.

By Olivia Bunter

With just three weeks remaining of the Listening and Dialogue phase of the 2020 Plenary Council, parishioners across the Archdiocese of Perth are being encouraged to attend a session at their local parish.

Claremont Parishioners Ann Johnston and Ralph Goodman jumped at the opportunity to be involved in the Listening and Dialogue sessions as animators.

They spoke with The Record this week to talk about what this experience has meant to them.

“So far, we’ve had two meetings very vocal sessions in regards to governance and spirituality. I think the discussion has been very robust,” Ann explained.

The second week, Ralph added, was different because people had taken on board what had been said in the first meeting.

Ann mentioned that as presenters, the challenge for them was to learn how to monitor the conversation and encourage them to listen respectfully.

“Even if 30 people show up across the board, discuss and exchange their views and ideas, it makes it so enjoyable for us,” Ralph said.

“The Plenary Council is reaching out to all Australians, not just Catholics, so everyone’s involvement is vital.”


Both Ann and Ralph are eager to be involved in the Plenary Listening and Dialogue Sessions, hoping to encourage others to have their say. Photo: Olivia Bunter.

Claremont Parish Priest Father Wayne Davis has been “very supportive of what we’re doing”.

Ann’s faith has been constant throughout her entire life. Having lived her early days in Zimbabwe, she remained committed to attending Mass on weekends once she moved to Australia in her early teens.

Her role as a teacher, she says, is an asset to her role as an animator as the interpersonal skills gained from her profession feed into her interactions with parishioners in the sessions.

“It’s my role, being on the Parish Council and also on the school board to be involved in these discussions to make sure they do happen. It puts a fire in my belly,” she added.

Ralph himself reflected on moving away from the Church in his early-20s when he went away to university.

“I fell off and then returned to it when I realised I should.”

When asked what they hoped the Plenary Council would achieve, they both expressed a wish for people to feel heard.

“I hope that people will feel involved, and that they have a voice,” Ann said.

“My grandmother used to say that it doesn’t matter, as long as Jesus is loved everywhere and that you know that Jesus loves you – that’s enough."

Ralph reflected that at the end of the day, he was happy to be able to participate in making a difference in the Church.

“We don’t get these Plenary Councils very often. My wish is that people take the opportunity to ask the right questions and reflect on important thoughts, values and beliefs,” he explained.

“The Plenary is an opportunity for people to feel involved in the Church. It’s an opportunity to share their faith and feel respected as a part of the Catholic community.”

Both Ann and Ralph want to see a younger demographic involved in the conversation because they believe it is important to have voices from all walks of life involved in such an important discussion.

Ann hopes that this experience will help people to feel involved in the Church.

She wants people to feel respected and expresses wishes that the church is an ongoing, vibrant community for her children to grow up in.

“The Plenary Council is a positive thing that is happening in the Church and I feel courage in the Church more than ever.”