Aussies at the Synod

Checking out the number of Australian participants at the Synod, I was astounded to identify 14 Aussies (out of a total of approximately 400 participants).

Not sure if I’ve missed anyone but by any measure that’s far beyond what one might expect based on Australia’s population (25.7 million), 19.9% of whom are Catholic.

No doubt, at least in part, it represents a desire of the Synod organisers to draw on the experience of the recent Australian Plenary Council of 2021-22.

There are five bishops on the list. Archbishop Tim Costelloe is president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference while Bishop Shane MacKinlay is vice-president. Anthony Fisher is prominent as archbishop of Sydney while Patrick O’Regan is archbishop of Adelaide.

Bishop Tony Randazzo of Broken Bay in the northern suburbs of Sydney but is representing the bishops of Oceania at the Synod.

There is one priest, namely Ormond Rush, well known for his expertise on Vatican II and synodality in particular.

That leaves eight non-ordained including two religious brothers, Ian Cribb SJ, who was likely chosen for his expertise in the field of discernment, and Mark Hilton, SC, superior general of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and representing that community (Full disclosure: Mark and I were on the St John’s College, Braybrook, school swimming team back in 1972! Hi, Mark!).

There are five lay women, all experts in their fields:

  • Sandie Cornish, lecturer in Catholic Social Teaching at the Australian Catholic University
  • Trudy Dantis, director of the National Centre for Pastoral Research
  • Renée Köhler-Ryan, head of the School of Philosophy and Theology at the University of Notre Dame Australia
  • Kelly Paget, chancellor of the Diocese of Broken Bay
  • Susan Pascoe, former director of Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Finally, we have John Lochowiak, the only lay man, manager of Centacare’s Aboriginal Services in Adelaide and chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), which is the peak body advising the Bishops Commission for relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Clearly, a very experienced and highly competent group of clerics, religious and lay people.

Still, out of fourteen, how not to notice that there is not a single person representing grassroots lay groups and initiatives?

Well, I’m in no way arguing that there should be even more Australians present at the Synod.

But surely the Synod overall needs to provide great representation to grassroots groups and movements, who collectively comprise the associative dimension of the Church as the People of God.

Stefan Gigacz

Note: Updated to reflect the fact that Ian Cribb is a religious brother not a priest.


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