Organisers were delighted that more than 70 people gave up their time on a Monday night to share their views about the future of the Church. Conducted as part of the ‘listening and dialogue’ phase for Plenary Council 2020, the feedback received from attendees will form submissions from the Blackwood parish.
Sarah Moffatt from the Plenary Council Executive Committee addressed the forum on the purpose of the Plenary before attendees broke into small groups to tackle the questions, ‘What do you think God is asking of us in Australia today?’ and ‘What does this mean for Church?’.
“The enthusiasm and energy evident in the group discussions was evidence that people still care about God and Church,” said Pauline Webster from the Blackwood Parish Plenary Council Team, which organised the event.
“Listening to the views and experiences of people from other churches and those who don’t attend church also gave new insights to all.”
Mrs Webster said many topics were covered during the evening, including the “need to hold steadfast to following the teachings of Jesus and the gospels”.
“People felt that our mission should continue to be that of welcoming everyone – especially those alienated – and we should not be judgemental.”
There was significant support for the role of women in the Church to be seriously considered, as well as the concept of married priests.
While many spoke against Church rules as being ‘out of step with modern times’ there was also acknowledgement that the understanding of the Catholic faith and Church doctrine needed to improve.
“Many perceived the need for us to be more active learners and leaders of our faith.
“There was clear support for greater involvement of lay people in Church decision making and for a different style of leadership that afforded greater transparency and accountability,” Mrs Webster added.
“Seriously addressing the apparent irrelevance of God and Church to many people today seemed a priority. While many spoke of making the Mass and other Church activities more attractive and meaningful, others focused on the need to make the links between God and Church and our lives more explicit and convincing using language and concepts that are accessible.”
Chair of the Blackwood Parish Pastoral Council, Terry Tierney, said more than half of the participants who attended the forum were from local parish, with other Catholic parishes and local Christian churches also represented.
“Despite our concerted efforts we did not meet the forum’s main goal of getting many non-church goers to attend. However, the evening was a success in that many of our own parishioners who hadn’t participated in our previous ‘plenary chats’ did attend.
“This will have a snowball effect within our parish as many participants indicated they wanted to take part in further sessions on faith and Church. We are excited about the possibilities this opens up,” he said.