In light of falling congregation numbers and the catastrophic failures to children in its care over past decades, the Catholic Church is reaching out to people of all faiths in search of the relevance of God in today’s society.
And members of the Port Stephens community – regardless of whether they are Catholics or not – are being encouraged to participate in the church’s historic Plenary Council to be held in 2020.
The last Plenary Council to take place in Australia was in 1938.
Feedback from the public is being sought to the broad question: “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia today?”
Submissions are due by Ash Wednesday – March 6, 2019.
The church, which has endured declining Mass attendances for decades, was further thrown into turmoil following the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
There are many among both the clergy and parishioners now calling for long overdue change.
St Brigid’s Catholic Parish at Raymond Terrace is playing a supporting role in the planning and preparing for the national council as well as the formation of a diocesan synod to be conducted in October 2019.
The parish’s Fr Kevin Kiem said it was important that as many members of the wider Port Stephens community – who may or may not be aligned to the church – be encouraged to consider “having their say”.
“This is a great initiative by the Catholic Church in a response to the sign of the times and as an acceptance in the gifts people have to offer the church’s hierarchy,” Fr Kevin said.
“The invitation is being issued as widely as possible, and we hope that people who may feel distant from the institutional church – for whatever reason – might consider this opportunity to put across their views.
“I have heard people say, ‘I didn’t leave the church, the church left me’ and I understand that. Here is an opportunity to discuss and lobby for change.”
Parish member and driver of the public consultation process, Tracey Edstein, said that the agenda for the synod would be drawn from the submissions made by members of the Port Stephens community and fed back to the diocese.
“Hence it’s critical on both a diocesan and national level for people to accept the invitation to participate,” she said.
Submissions can be made online and you can learn more at plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au.