Plenary Council Assembly One

October 29, 2021



Church’s need for inward and outward-looking focus: Fiona Basile speaks with Fr Kevin Lenehan about the Assembly and his experience……more.


October 11, 2021

Members from the Ballarat Diocese, Marie Shaddock, Felicity Knobel and Bishop Paul Bird.

Concluding statement from the First Assembly of the Plenary Council.

‘The Journey so Far’

As we conclude the First General Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, the process of discernment continues. From the opening Mass to the closing of the Assembly, our prayer has been ‘Come, Holy Spirit.’ The call to hear afresh the Good News of Jesus Christ through a spiritual posture of ‘deep listening’ has been a central element of the preparation of the Plenary process and a distinctive feature of this week. We adopted a regular pattern of prayer and spiritual conversation throughout each day. This slow process of deep listening allowed space for still nascent dreams and visions to come to greater maturity. Read more.

Plenary Podcast

Gain insights into the journey the Catholic Church is on with the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.

Listen here.

Francis Sullivan – Plenary Speaking

The Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) representative at the Plenary Council is the Chair of the CSSA Board, Francis Sullivan AO.   Read more.

October 10, 2021

Closing Mass for the First Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia

The Fifth Plenary Council of Australia is a journey for the whole Church across the country. This is the live stream of the Closing Mass, celebrated at St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane

Acknowledgement of Country – Session 14

Session 14 – Morning Plenary, Opening Prayer

October 9, 2021

Fr Kevin Maloney, Vicar General offers these thoughts on the Plenary Council First Assembly

It is Friday night of October 8 and I have just finished the thirteenth session of the first Assembly of the Plenary Council. This afternoon, as part of the ongoing process, the small groups looking at the operations and structures associated with the Church in Australia drew their observations and proposals to a conclusion. These will be presented tomorrow.

According to the chairperson, Archbishop Timothy Costello, these groups are a distinctive and valuable part of the discernment process during this week. Each day, the groups have presented progress reports to the Assembly informing them of their ongoing process. The sharing of experiences and spiritual conversations in the various groups has influenced and helped develop the emergence of key directions and ideas.

Tomorrow, October 9,  will be an important day as each small group offers their observations and proposals to the whole of the gathered Assembly. The group reports, along with proposals submitted by individual members, will then be publicly available and will become the starting point for the consultation and preparation to be undertaken prior to the Second Assembly of the Plenary Council. I believe those assembled have found the experience of the process so-far challenging but rewarding.

Between the ending of the First Assembly tomorrow and the commencement of the Second Assembly (July 2022) the Steering Committee will prepare propositions with the assistance of the Drafting Committee and the Plenary Council Advisors and with further consultation with Members.

Session 14 of the Plenary Council Assembly 1

During this morning’s plenary session on the final full day of the first general assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, the 10 small groups that have been discerning the Council’s agenda provided their final reports back to the full assembly of members. The groups shared their reports during the day’s livestreamed session.

See here.

Plenary Council Mass – Saturday, October 9, 2021 – Archdiocese of Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli celebrated Mass for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.

Plenary Council’s Task: ‘Reveal the Face Of Christ’

Archbishop Peter Comensoli, in today’s Mass for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, has said the Council’s task is to reveal the face of Christ – a face that blends cultures, languages, ethnicities and histories.

The Melbourne Archbishop celebrated Mass on the final full day of the Council’s First General Assembly, which will conclude with Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane Sunday morning.

The Plenary Council journey will continue for nine months, culminating in the second general assembly in July 2022.

Read more.

October 8, 2021

Felicity Knobel reflects on the Plenary Council First Assembly

When I first became involved in the Plenary Council it was in response to a callout for volunteers to come forward that could assist with perhaps one meeting of discernment for my parish. Alongside, my now friend and colleague Jillian Hogbin, we set about a journey that certainly wasn’t the promised one meeting but a longer journey that has taken me at times from my comfort zone and has made me look at my faith, look at the Church and look at the people in the community in a way that is continuing to bring more questions than answers.

The First Assembly has now been taking place for four days online. It has been a time of joy, frustration, testing of patience, light bulb moments and everything in between. I have been in a group of thirty people from all occupations, backgrounds, ages, sexes, experiences and places in Australia and our focus has been discerning the question: How might we better see the future of Catholic education (primary, secondary and tertiary) through a missionary lens? I have been a teacher (mostly in Catholic education) for over twenty years and I bring this experience and knowledge to this question. However, I also bring with me a knowledge of being raised in a Catholic family, attending Catholic primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. I also bring, importantly, my experience of being a parent to children that are also attending Catholic schools.

Each day we are given a different scripture text that we must use in our discernment of our question. We are then asked to share with our smaller group what is in our prayer today. We are called to listen to not only ourselves, but to all people in our group. The second phase is asking us to share what we heard in our group and how we feel. For the last eighteen months, like everyone, I have spent a lot of time online in zooms, google meets and team meetings. I know that we are exceptionally lucky to be able to meet online and begin this process, however, there is difficulty when you are staring at a screen and not sharing as meaningfully as we might if we were together. Notwithstanding the frustration of being online, there have been moments of really understanding where someone is coming from, a glimpse at something different, understanding something I hadn’t considered and also when I disagree entirely with what is being said. In one of our sessions late in the afternoon where there were tired and (perhaps) frustrated people, one wise soul in our group spoke about the fact that we had to sit with the anxiety of how we were feeling with our question, with where we were going and how we were going to get there.

Sometimes we have to sit with the discomfort of differing opinions. Sometimes we need to have the feeling of hopelessness. Sometimes we need to be frustrated by the opinions of others. We are called in this process to allow the convergence. We have been able to tell each other all the things that we do well, where we need improvement, where we have been wrong and where change needs to be. Now we are looking at tacking in a direction so that the wind can be in our sails and we can move in a direction that brings fulfillment to the mission of Catholic education.

Plenary Council Mass – Friday, October 8, 2021 – Wollongong Bishop Brian Mascord celebrates Mass on Friday, October 8 for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.

Plenary Members focus on mission in God’s world

The concept of “sniffing out” the presence of God in the world, articulated by theologian Fr Richard Lennan in an address to the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, struck a chord with many members as they continued their discernment.

Fr Lennan, a priest of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese and an expert adviser to the Council speaking from Boston, said the Church had “no option but to exist in the present”.

Read more.

Plenary Podcast

Gain insights into the journey the Catholic Church is on with the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.

Listen here.


October 7, 2021

First Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in Australia – thoughts by Fr Kevin Lenehan

After a moving welcome to country by Aboriginal elder John Lochowiak, with visual images and songs evoking the many landscapes of this ‘wide brown land’, the first session of the Fifth Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in Australia got underway on October 4 with a message of greeting from Pope Francis, and an address by the President of the Council, Archbishop Tim Costelloe SDB. The theme of these official messages was one of communion, of belonging, among the many diverse people and groups that make up the Catholic community in Australia.

Around 280 Council members, along with invited attendees from other countries, other churches, and experts in church teaching and canon law, are meeting by video conference each day this week, October 3 – 10. It is the most diverse and inclusive gathering in an official Catholic meeting in Australia’s history, made up of ordained and lay people, women and men, younger and older, indigenous and those arriving from many countries, Latin and Eastern Catholics, leaders in Catholic education, health care and social services. These members are mindful of the comments of tens of thousands of Catholics who took part in the national consultation in recent years.

The work of the Plenary undertaken by members in ten working groups. I am assigned to the group considering the place of Indigenous Australians in the church and in society. Other groups are reflecting on church renewal, governance, ministries, faith formation for families and young people, parish organisation, and social services. Each group is asked to develop concrete proposals for improving church life. These proposals will be further developed over the next nine months and decisions will be made at the Second Assembly of the Plenary Council in July 2022.

On Thursday, October 7, all members will work together to consider how the church should respond to the ongoing need for healing, reconciliation, safeguarding and trust-building in the wake of crimes of child sexual abuse and other forms of abuse in the church. It’s a difficult conversation, and members are conscious that more than words is needed in this situation.

Some good advice came to the Plenary Council from St Mary MacKillop, whose words to her sisters were recalled in the opening session: ‘Let us move forward being calm and full of hope.’

Fr Kevin Lenehan – 6 October 2021

Maronite Archbishop of Australia Antoine-Charbel Tarabay OLM celebrates Mass on Thursday, October 7 for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.

October 6, 2021

Marie Shaddock, Member from the Ballarat Diocese offers these thoughts on the first days of the Plenary Council:

Wow! What can I say, the Plenary is dynamic. Beginning on the Feast of St Francis of Assisi is no mere co-incidence but pure evidence of the Holy Spirit at work. “Rebuild my church” he said to St Francis and we, here in Australia, are looking at just that. Not necessarily redefining, but reviving who we are from the ashes of the ‘world.’ We represent the creative gift of life. I have heard such inspiring people who bring fresh ideas and new insights. It has been so good to listen to the earnest voices of the young people who are present in our discussions.

Archbishop Fisher has challenged us with how we proclaim Christ to those with no faith, to those inoculated by society against faith. We have been asked to question and consider ‘how we listen’. Do we have selective hearing or are we selectively deaf? There is no doubt there is a stern voice urging us on, to go deeper, to activate and animate our faith and not to be just ‘open’ but to the ‘go’ and ‘do’.

As we move into the week and progress through the program of the Plenary, Tuesday, October 5 is the Feast of St Faustina Kowalska who gave us The Mystery of Divine Mercy.  In 1931, Jesus chose an ordinary person to reveal what he so often does, that the weak and humble have the power to change the world. Surely this Plenary Council is just another form of Divine Mercy. My own participation in it reflects this – that God uses even the most unlikely to show He is at work and to show that each of us has work to do right where we are. Let us not hamper that work, but take note and go forward together courageously and in humility, listening to the Spirit.  Marie’s profile for her nomination to be Member can be read here.

Richard Lennan – Session 7 Plenary

In the opening plenary session of Day 3 of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, representatives of the ten small groups reported back on their ongoing prayer and discernment of the 16 questions of the Plenary Council agenda.  Read more here.

Archbishop of Sydney and Vice-President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Anthony Fisher OP, celebrated Mass on Wednesday, October 6 for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.

October 5, 2021

Assembly 1 – Tuesday Plenary Wrap

The opening plenary of the second day of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia recently concluded. It included the first process of the Council’s ten small groups reporting back on the fruits of their prayer and discernment, as they consider the sixteen questions of the Council’s agenda each afternoon. Each day when the morning plenary session is livestreamed, there will be a period during which the ten groups provide such reports.   Read more.

Adelaide Archbishop Patrick O’Regan celebrated Mass for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.

Praying with the Plenary Council

Francis Sullivan – Plenary Speaking

The Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) representative at the Plenary Council is the Chair of the CSSA Board, Francis Sullivan AO. Francis will provide a daily report on his experience of this momentous event for the Australian Catholic Church.

Plenary Council 2021


October 4, 2021

Bishop Paul offers a reflection for the first day of the Assembly:

When we began the Plenary Council process three years ago, we considered the question, “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” The process has involved prayer as well as conversation. So it was fitting that the opening day of the Plenary Council’s First Assembly began with prayer. I was pleased to be able to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit in our Ballarat Cathedral in the morning. Because of the pandemic restrictions, we were only able to have a small congregation in the Cathedral but the Mass was livestreamed so that others could pray with us from home. In the afternoon I followed the Mass livestreamed from the Cathedral in Perth. This was celebrated by Archbishop Tim Costelloe, the President of the Plenary Council. In each of these Masses, we prayed for a fresh outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the members of the Plenary Council and on our whole Church community in Australia. In this week of the First Assembly, I pray that we will be richly blessed with the gifts we need, gifts such as wisdom and courage and patience and love.

Later in the afternoon, the members of the Plenary Council met online to hear further details of the week’s program. This will involve gatherings of all the members each morning and gatherings in smaller groups each afternoon. There will be 10 groups of up to 30 members. Each group will focus on one or two of the questions on the Plenary Council agenda. Then the groups will share the fruits of their prayer and conversation with the whole Plenary Council the next morning. Plenary Council members were invited to nominate several topics they would like to focus on for the week. From these lists, we have each been assigned to a particular group.

We have six people attending from our diocese of Ballarat and we will be covering a range of questions. Marie Shaddock is in the group asking how parishes might become local centres for the formation of missionary disciples. Felicity Knobel is in the group looking at Catholic education through a missionary lens. Father Kevin Maloney’s group will be looking at how we might recast Church governance in a more missionary key and how we can share the Gospel through Catholic social services and health care. Monsignor Glynn Murphy’s group will consider how we might better form people of all ages as leaders for mission. Father Kevin Lenehan’s group will look at how the Church in Australia might be open to Indigenous ways of being Christian and how we might learn from the First Nations peoples. My group will consider how we might accompany one another on the journey of personal and communal conversion that mission in Australia requires. We will also look at how we can respond to the call to “ecological conversion”, with particular attention to the more vulnerable people and environments in our country and our region of the world. As we consider all these topics, we will need the guidance of the Holy Spirit and we will be grateful for the prayerful support of people throughout out diocese.

 Bishop Paul Bird CSsR

Pope sends Blessings to Historic Church Event

Pope Francis has sent greetings and blessings from Rome as the program for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, the first such event in this country in 84 years, began today.

A message read out during the opening plenary session this morning said the Plenary Council “represents a singular ‘journeying together’ of God’s people in Australia along the paths of history towards a renewed encounter with the Risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

Read more

October 3, 2021

The First General Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia opened with Mass at 2.00pm AEDT from St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth on Sunday, October 3.

Bishop Paul Bird celebrated Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral at 10.30am in recognition of the opening of the Plenary Council.  You can watch this Mass on the Cathedral’s webpage here.

Bishop Paul’s homily can be read here.

Follow the Plenary Council assembly online

With the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia being an event for the whole Church, parts of the first general assembly will be livestreamed each day. The home page of the Plenary Council website will be the place to go to find the livestream each day.

Here are some highlights from the livestream schedule:

October 3: Opening Mass of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, 2pm AEDT from St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth.

October 4-9: Daily Mass broadcast at 9.30am AEDT and on demand afterwards.

October 4-6 and October 8-9: Plenary session livestream starts at 11am AEDT and runs until approximately 12.15pm AEDT.

October 7: Plenary session livestream starts at 12 noon AEDT and runs until approximately 12.45pm AEDT.

October 10: Closing Mass of the First General Assembly, 11am AEDT from St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane.

The historic event will develop concrete proposals to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia. Watch Mass live-streamed each day and access other information on the Plenary Council website at or on the Plenary Council youtube channel here

Livestreams, key moments and more information