The biennial national Catholic social services conference, Serving Communities with Courage and Compassion
was held in Melbourne from 26-28 February. During the conference, Melbourne Catholic
caught up with the national facilitator of the Plenary Council, Lana Turvey-Collins.
In this episode
, Lana reflects on how the idea of taking time out to pray and discern is deeply counter-cultural—even for an institution as old as the Catholic Church. "It’s a courageous decision,’ she explains. ‘Since the Second Vatican Council this (Australian Plenary) Council is only the third to be held (in the world)."
"The Australian psyche is very action-oriented," she says. "…we're doers, so three years of preparation and talking is something people are not used to ... The initial stage of dialogue was the first time there was a national formal invitation for all to come and share. When you do this for the first time in a country after 80 years of not doing it, then it takes time for people to move on from what they're angry about … and then the deep stuff comes through; the really beautiful golden nuggets that can be transformative. And that's what discernment is about: it's about finding the depth of the idea."
She says discernment has to be an act of faith. "Discernment is not comfortable … we need to learn how to do that well; learn how to be 'uncomfortably comfortable' in the mess."
She cautions against people raising their hopes too high for a fix-all solution. "I don’t think these council assemblies will answer all of the questions that people want answered," she says, maintaining that the Church is simply "too big and too complex" for that to happen. However, the message is a hopeful one, reasoning that through this process we can create "a pathway that will set us in the right direction of good things being nurtured and nourished" and to "move and change and be responsive in culture".
"This whole process has been designed to activate our baptism," she says. "The council assemblies are important and historically significant, but so is every time a group of people gets together to make a decision ... the transformation that has happened because small groups of people rely on one another and on God and the Holy Spirit to make a decision has power beyond belief. So it was very deliberate to have two parts to respond to your discernment—locally and nationally."
In the coming weeks the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council will announce the Plenary delegates from each diocese. The body of delegates attending the first council session in October is made up of 300 canonically mandated people, Lana explains, comprising a council ‘that is able to make decisions that become binding for us and are part of our universal church process.’
The body of delegates "is a group of people that we will need to pray for," Lana says. "They are charged with a huge responsibility." Lana says the delegates coming from their local places will be carrying their local story, "but with a heart and mind that is open to discern with all the people of God in Australia to finish this three and half year discernment process."
Photo courtesy Melbourne Catholic.