Held every four years, the gathering was attended by more than 60 Australian and New Zealand members of the lay movement inspired by the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola.
With his characteristic panache, humour and passion Fr Leonard called for a Church which “doesn’t run away from the realities of Australian society”.
Carefully identifying the major blocks to people listening to the message of the Gospel, he named courage, compassion and the fostering of community as hallmarks of the practice of faith.
He reiterated the key messages of Pope Francis – to listen to God calling us in the actual situations we face, offering love to one and all in all aspects of our lives, caring for the Earth, our common home, and living joyfully.
“Remember to tell your face to smile”, he declared, “against the gloom and doom that can become our unconscious way of being in the world”.
CLC member Peter Laffan said the gathering was a chance for the participants to reflect deeply on what they had received through the fortnightly practice of listening to God speaking in their lives in small groups.
“The experience of sharing one’s life in the context of prayer, deepening the search for God’s will, and responding to the challenges of Pope Francis, were seen by all present as indeed ‘a gift to the Church and the world’,” he said.
Sessions of the gathering were devoted to the priorities for CLC’s apostolic work – actively countering the threats to Earth’s wellbeing, standing up for the poor and marginalised, and making Ignatian spirituality available to all, especially through the First Spiritual Exercises, or Retreat in Daily Life.
A special session was devoted to the Church’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, led by Fr Iain Radvan SJ, the Jesuit assistant to CLC.
He called for a thorough self-examination by the Church of how to change the way it sees itself and of how to reform its structures towards openness, transparency, humility and compassion.
“The gathering was marked by deep sharing and fostering of a common purpose,” Mr Laffan said.
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