At our first meeting this year we identified our priorities in response to the Assembly recommendations and Plenary Council decrees under three broad headings: formation for mission; leadership that is co-responsible and authentic, and communication that is consistent, regular and two-way.
We listed some key projects under the headings. Some of the projects are being undertaken by the Council and others are being led by bodies such as the Integral Ecology Council and recently formed Formation Commission.
One project the Council took on is the development of an Archdiocesan Leadership Framework which describes leadership that is authentic, discerning and co-responsible for a synodal Church. The Leadership Framework will be relevant to lay and ordained leaders in the Archdiocese and at its core is the compassion and service Jesus modelled in his leadership. The Framework describes leadership qualities, requirements and practices and will be used to inform leadership formation, programs, mentoring and leadership appointments and reviews.
I asked Council members to comment on what we have worked on this year and one said ‘I am particularly excited about the leadership framework we’re working on, and hope that in the coming year we can do more to make the diocese a more welcoming and inclusive place, in the way that the majority of Catholics – as represented through the Plenary process – clearly want it to be.’
Another reflection was: ‘It is exciting to be developing a leadership framework for the diocese, which at the heart is relationships between leaders and the broader community – relationships that develop co-responsibility, so that all baptised Catholics can embrace their identity as missionary disciples.’
The Leadership Framework will be ready for more widespread consultation in the new year and we look forward to consulting with individuals and groups across the Archdiocese as we complete this work.
The development of a Listening, Learning and Communication Plan has been another focus, as is supporting pastoral planning, regional assemblies and many other diocesan priorities. We have also valued being part of the global Synod by engaging with learning and discussion as part of the preparation. As the Diocesan Pastoral Council, we understand our role in promoting the vision and mission of the Archdiocese and we are developing processes and structures to ensure we are supporting and connecting with work across the diocese that gives life to the vision and mission.
From our first meeting, the Council has been committed to modelling a synodal church in the way we work together and with others. One member said they very much enjoyed ‘engaging in the sometimes uncomfortable space of authentic conversation, drawing out and acknowledging different views and then working together to find a path forward’. Another said ‘meetings of the new DPC have been held differently. We are not spoken to – instead, in discussion groups, we are asked for our opinion’. They went on to say: ‘The Church and its members have been hurt badly in the past by sexual abuse findings and we need to heal. To do this we must depart from clericalism and adapt to a listening and learning model. Members of the DPC and clergy together, listen and work through the process that leads into Mission and Communion.’
The Council’s commitment to synodality has been affirmed in the following member reflections.
‘The DPC team has evolved nicely with its members having a wide range of complementary skills and the use of a synodal approach has ensured a true willingness to listen and learn from each other.’
‘I have enjoyed the rapport that the members have with each other and the reflection time, coupled with prayer, to inform our steps into the future. There is still much learning to be done, however, the DPC has had extensive leadership formation over the past year, and this has helped with our focus towards synodality.’
I hope these reflections have given you some insight into the work of the DPC. There is lots to do and to learn, but we have built a good foundation this year. I take this opportunity to thank all Council members for their enthusiastic and dedicated participation and I look forward to our work together in 2024.
Monica Conway is chair of the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
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