Delegates named for celebration of Plenary Council

Some long-awaited lists have appeared on the website of the Australian Plenary Council. They are lists of people who will be attending the sessions of the Plenary Council in October this year and June next year. There are 267 delegates from all around Australia. A few more delegates are to be added as representatives of national church organisations.

Under the “Diocese of Ballarat” heading, there are four delegates. As well as myself as bishop, the delegates include Fr Kevin Maloney (Vicar General of the diocese), Felicity Knobel (from the Ballarat Cathedral parish) and Marie Shaddock (from the parish of Ouyen, in the north of our diocese).

In Fr Kevin Maloney, we have a delegate with many years of service in parishes around our diocese and someone who has come to know the diocese further in his current role as vicar general. In Felicity and Marie, we have delegates from the regional city of Ballarat and from the rural town of Ouyen. Felicity is much involved in the life of the cathedral parish, as well as being a teacher at Loreto College. Marie is much involved in the life of the Ouyen parish, as well as being a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council.

As well as the four delegates listed under the “Diocese of Ballarat” heading, there are another two delegates from our diocese.

Fr Kevin Lenehan is a delegate to the Plenary Council in view of his role as master of Catholic Theological College in Melbourne. While he lives and works in Melbourne at the moment, Kevin is a priest of our diocese and he will bring to the Plenary Council his experience of life and ministry in our diocese as well as his experience in theological education.

Monsignor Glynn Murphy is listed as a delegate to the Plenary Council under the heading of the “Military Ordinariate”. Glynn has served for many years as a chaplain in the Australian Defence Force and he will bring that experience to the Plenary Council. He also served in the Ballarat Diocese in the first years of his priestly ministry and he is among us again now as parish priest of Warracknabeal and Hopetoun.

As the six delegates from our diocese, I hope we can make a rich contribution to the Plenary Council, reflecting the issues that concern us as a diocesan community and the gifts that our community can share with the Catholic community throughout Australia.

Paul Bird CSsR – Bishop of Ballarat


Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has written to more than 250 other Catholics across the country, calling them as delegates for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.

“At a time in our Church’s history we’ve not seen before, with the suspension of Masses across the country and around the world, the announcement of our Plenary Council delegates is a source of great joy for the People of God in Australia,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

Canon law outlines those who must be called as delegates to a plenary council, including bishops, vicars general, episcopal vicars, heads of seminaries and theological institutions, and leaders of religious congregations. That added up to 180 delegates.  Canon law also allows for delegates who may be called as representatives – the total of which can’t exceed half of the total of those who must be called.

The number of delegates from each local church – a diocese, eparchy, ordinariate or personal prelature – ranged from one to four depending on the local Catholic population. In all, 78 people have so far been confirmed, with additional representation to be named from national organisations representing education, social services, health and aged care, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics.

“Bishops across the country worked locally with leaders in their diocese to design a process to consider names of people who were nominated or applied to be delegates for the Plenary Council assemblies,” Archbishop Costelloe said.  “We were grateful for and impressed with the faith and the calibre of the people who were nominated. We could quite easily have filled several quotas with the names that were put forward.”

Archbishop Costelloe said bishops were mindful of the large number of clerics who must be called by virtue of their role. There were also many males who will represent religious orders. “It was therefore important to prioritise lay people – and especially lay women – in the list of those local delegates who were chosen,” he said.  “It was also obvious that while not universal, the age of those who must be called was quite high. We are pleased that we were able to lower the average age, lift the proportion of lay people and the proportion of women in the overall delegate list.

“Plenary councils have often been the domain of bishops and priests and while canon law still ensures they are the major presence in the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, the lay and female representation far surpasses anything seen before.”
Among the list of delegates who may be called already selected, 64 per cent are women and the average age of those delegates is 48 – with the youngest just 19 years old.  

“The Church is a melting pot of ages and cultures and is enriched by the wisdom and insights of the ordained, of consecrated women and men, and of lay women and men,” said Lana Turvey-Collins, the Plenary Council facilitator.  “The Plenary Council’s two assemblies promise to be a true celebration of the Catholic Church in Australia, both in its diversity and its unity.”

Ms Turvey-Collins said the Plenary Council steering committee is considering how the COVID-19 pandemic might affect the first Council assembly, scheduled for Adelaide this October. “We are watching advice from the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments and the relevant health officials closely,” she said.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and make decisions about the first assembly when advice relevant to October 2020 is clearer.”

Ms Turvey-Collins said the preparation of delegates, including their formation as people ready to listen to the Holy Spirit, will be the next focus, and will be delivered with the assistance of digital technology.  

Archbishop Costelloe concluded: “We ask Catholics across the country, and in the local churches, to pray for the ongoing discernment of the Plenary Council and particularly for the delegates who will play a critical role in helping decide the way forward for the Church in Australia.”

The list of Plenary Council delegates can be accessed here.