Plenary Council 2020 – The Next Steps


The National Centre for Pastoral Research’s Final Report for the Plenary Council 2020’s Phase 1: Listening and Dialogue has been released– a 200-plus page report feeding back the results of over 200,000 voices and 17,000 submissions to the Plenary Council in 2018-2019.

Over the past six weeks the Plenary Council has given snapshots of what the People of God shared in their submissions with the release of the Six National Themes for Discernment.

They ask the question – How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is:

  1. Missionary and Evangelising
  2. Inclusive, Participatory and Synodal
  3. Prayerful and Eucharistic
  4. Humble, Healing and Merciful
  5. A Joyful, Hope-filled and Servant Community
  6. Open to Conversion, Renewal and Reform

With the release of these snapshots and in anticipation for the final report for Phase 1, people from around the Diocese of Parramatta were asked what they thought about the National Themes for Discernment and the next phase of the Plenary Council.

What is your reaction to the National Themes for Discernment?

“The National Themes for Discernment cover a vast array of differing responses to the ‘What is God Asking of Us in Australia at this Time?’ Because of so many responses (17000), the Themes had to be summaries and as such are quite good. Of course, not everyone will agree with the six Themes chosen or even how they have been expressed, but this is an excellent start to what will be an ongoing process.”  – Teresa.

“My immediate reaction was ‘Only six!’ Of course then I realised that the themes are very high level with a huge number of issues and concepts underlying them. My more considered reaction is ‘Wow, there’s a lot to get your head around here!’” – Michael.

“We need to be clear with the public about what these themes can/will amount to. We do not want to give either false hope or expectation about what practical ideas will taken from the National Themes. As I speak with parishioners and the general public more, they are all interested in the same phrases used in the graphic “what people talked about” and I think it is important that these phrases are related back to where they fit in the National Themes for Discernment.” – Ryan.

“Perhaps the over-arching goal/vision of the Plenary process is really the 6th theme i.e. at this time the Holy Spirit is inviting our Church to be open to conversion, renewal and reform based on the example and message of Jesus and the challenges of our contemporary world. The other 5 themes contain 13 different adjectives which are sub-plots of this challenge.” – Kim.

“My first reaction was that the intended outcome was shrouded in mystery and the boundaries of each theme were not clearly defined and some important messages were left out. Vatican II was a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit but apart from the discernment aspect little mention of the effects of the Holy Spirit himself on our lives seemed to be completely omitted as it has for the last 500 years or so. This needs to be addressed as it is the lifeblood of the Plenary Council 2020.” – John.

What were your first reactions to the National Themes for Discernment? Please share your comments.