Final Plenary Reflection

The Australian Plenary Council is now over!

I’m happy to report that we did in fact achieve our key aim, i.e. to highlight the importance of the lay apostolate and formation for the lay apostolate.

We were particularly pleased with Decree 6 on Formation:

https://plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/FINAL-Decree-6-Formation-and-Leadership-for-Mission-and-Ministry.pdf

In particular §9 of the Preamble emphasises the need for lay apostolate formation:

9. THEREFORE, to meet the formation needs of the present and future, the Plenary
Council commits the Church in Australia to developing and committing to a culture of life-long
faith formation that will ensure:

a. the diversity of the Catholic community is explicitly recognised; 

b. intercultural competency is encouraged, especially in relation to Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander cultures and spiritualities; 

c. the equal dignity of women and men is affirmed and demonstrated; 

d. the renewal of faith formation within and for families in the context of the critical role
that marriage, parenting, and care-giving plays as a school of formation, is prioritised
and strengthened; 

e. the apostolate of the laity, along with new ecclesial realities, acting as “leaven in the
world,” (Lumen Gentium n. 31) is promoted, encouraged and supported;

Having said that, it’s still hard to avoid the conclusion that there was a generalised reluctance within the Plenary to recognise this specific role and mission of lay people.

Repeatedly, the Plenary documents speak of the “baptised,” who of course include everyone – bishops, priests and religious as well as lay people.

Why this reluctance to recognise the identity of the lay people who comprise 99% of the baptised?

In any event, the Plenary is over now! Time to pick up on the positive possibilities that it has opened up.

Perhaps, the forthcoming Synod on Synodality will offer new opportunities to highlight the vocation, mission role of lay people in the world and the Cburch.

Stefan Gigacz


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