The assembly began on Friday September 17 with a moving welcome to country by John Lochowiak, from Centacare Catholic Family Services and Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, who spoke of his family’s strong connection to the Church.
“It’s great to see all these Catholics together,” Mr Lochowiak said.
In his opening address, Archbishop Patrick O’Regan also spoke of the significance of being able to gather in large numbers at a time when this was not possible in many other parts of the country.
“My thoughts go immediately back to when I started my time here, at my installation where I think we had 30 people at the ceremony, so in a sense I have longed to be with the whole, so far as we can be representative tonight, of the diocese,” he said. “It’s a great joy for me that we can even gather.
“Our time, because we are so time poor, is one of the greatest gifts we have, so thank you for coming here to share something of your time. I feel I have come simply as a pastor, as a shepherd who seeks to bring his family together…welcome fellow pilgrims.”
Archbishop O’Regan said in reading through some of the 1500 responses provided in preparation for the assembly one word that came through especially was ‘diversity’.
“This describes not just the range of responses but also the people we have become in 2021. We as the people of God in this place are diverse yet draw into communion with our God and one another through the gift of the Spirit,” he said.
On Saturday, participants broke into 36 groups to discuss a number of key themes arising from the consultation process for the Diocesan Assembly.
Issues included outreach and accompaniment of young people and families, inclusion and healing, parish life and liturgy, responding to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, and leadership and formation.
The four highest ranked priorities were: enable opportunities for women to undertake roles of leadership in the Archdiocese; establish new models for ministry and service – a Church that is outward focused; reach out to the community and connection, instead of inviting people to come to us, and establish a ‘justice and peace’ commission or similar.
Other priorities included: financial support for family-based programs, education of the heart/encourage Catholic Social Teaching; provide opportunities and resources for family faith formation, and explore faith formation programs for adults and young people.
Each group discussed two themes and through a listening, dialogue and discernment process came up with 144 recommendations. Attendees were given six dots to assist with ranking the recommendations which were displayed around the Cabra gymnasium.
The program on Saturday also included liturgies with music performed by Henley Beach parish choir and a panel discussion with Bianca Cotton, pastoral associate at Aberfoyle Park parish,
Fr Dean Marin, parish priest of Mount Gambier, Sr Brigette Sipa, regional congregational leader of the Sisters of St Joseph and John Konopka, principal of Mount Carmel College (pictured left).
Responding to a question from co-host Pauline Connelly about their own experience of ‘Church’, panellists spoke of the importance of relationships.
“Building relationships with people, being there and showing the love of Jesus every day, that’s living out our baptismal call and being Church to me,” said Mrs Cotton.
Fr Marin said “in a nutshell, Church is about a community, the Eucharist bringing people together in the Lord’s name”.
“It always begins with people, being in touch with their real experience and accepting that experience,” he said.
Sr Brigette said it was important to believe that “the Spirit has a place in this” and that “each one of us has something to offer”.
Mr Konopka spoke about his “dyed in the wool” Catholic upbringing and trying to give an opportunity for young people today to “be the face of Christ”.
Diocesan Assembly coordinator Peter Bierer said the first two sessions of the assembly highlighted the value of “deep listening, withholding judgement, noticing our own biases and feelings, discernment and community”.
“I like to think we created a space of hospitality and gratitude, a space to dialogue and listen to the Holy Spirit,” he said.
At the closing session of the assembly, held at the Capri Theatre and livestreamed on September 23, Mr Bierer and acting chancellor Sarah Moffatt outlined the recommendations and themes that came out of the group sessions.
The final presentation and other resources are available at www.adelaidediocesanassembly.org.
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