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‘Do not tear down the Lord’s Church, instead renew and restore it’ - Archbishop Costelloe


The commissioned Plenary Council Delegates who will represent the Archdiocese of Perth at the upcoming assemblies in October 2021 and July 2022 are Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB DD, Auxiliary Bishop Rev Donald Sproxton DD, Father Peter Whitely VG, Vicar for Clergy Brian McKenna EV, Episcopal Vicar for Education and Faith Formation Fr Vincent Glynn EV, St Charles’ Seminary Rector Fr Phillip Fleay, Redemptoris Mater Seminary Rector Fr Michael Moore SM, UNDA Vice-Chancellor Prof Francis Campbell, Centre for Faith Enrichment Director Dr Marco Ceccarelli, Applecross Parish youth coordinator Emily Hardbottle, UNDA senior lecturer in theology Dr Angela McCarthy and The Shopfront Director Mr Damian Walsh. Photo: Ron Tan.

By Amanda Murthy

Gathering in the name of Jesus, more than 100 worshippers congregated for Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday 4 October to witness the commissioning of 12 local delegates who have the privilege of representing the Archdiocese of Perth in the upcoming Plenary Council (PC) as representatives of religious congregations and other Church bodies.

The Mass, which coincided with the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, was celebrated by Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, joined by concelebrants Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton, Vicar General Father Peter Whitely, Episcopal Vicar for Education and Faith Formation Father Vincent Glynn, Abbott John Herbert OSB,  and assisted by Permanent Deacon Bruce Talbot.


Plenary Delegates the Very Rev Peter Whitely VG (far left) and youth representative Emily Hardbottle (second from left) are among the 12 Plenary Council Delegates who were commissioned at the 11am Sunday Mass on 4 October at St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Ron Tan.

After the conclusion of the Gospel reading, Archbishop Costelloe offered some words of reflection, then calling the delegates to the altar for a special blessing, committing them to their new role.

“St Francis of Assisi, who once kneeling before a crucifix hanging in a half-ruined church, the church of San Damiano, seemed to hear a voice from the crucifix speaking to him and saying, ‘Go and rebuild my church which is falling into ruins’,” Archbishop Costelloe expressed.

“At first, he thought these words referred to the half-ruined building in which he found himself, so he immediately set himself the task of restoring that church building to its original beauty.

“It was only through prayer, trusting faith and patience that Francis came to understand that the Lord was asking something much more important, that Francis, through his radical commitment to the Gospel, might lead the whole Church to a renewal of its original beauty and to a deeper fidelity,” Archbishop Costelloe added.

While the PC might well be our “San Damiano moment”, Archbishop Costelloe noted that this call by the Lord, “to return once again with courage and boldness to the beauty of the gospel and begin to build our lives, our institutions, and our ministries more solidly on the basis of Gospel principles” is not a call to tear down the Church and start again from scratch.

“The PC, whose delegates from our part of the Church we commission this morning, will be engaged in the same task – not to tear down the Lord’s Church  and create one of our own but, rather, work with the power of God‘s Spirit to restore and renew the Church and enable it to be all that the Lord is calling it, calling us, to be.”


As the Church in Australia continues to “contemplate the face of Jesus” through their call and challenge of discernment,12 Perth delegates for the Plenary Council process took place at the 11am Sunday Mass, on 4 October at St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Ron Tan.

Reiterating the fact that the challenge of the PC, is a task of the whole Church and not just the bishops, Archbishop Costelloe invited the community to keep the delegates in their prayers as they undergo months of intense spiritual preparation.

“This is a delicate and demanding task and our delegates to the Plenary Council will need the support of our constant prayer,” Archbishop Costelloe cited.

“The danger is that we simply presume that the Holy Spirit wants for the Church exactly what we might want for the Church. But as the Lord says to us in the Scriptures: ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Is 56:8-9).

“May the delegates, and all of us, be attentive to the words that Mary, the Mother of the Church, once spoke to the stewards at Cana: ‘you do whatever Jesus, tells you to do’,” His Grace concluded.