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Why another assembly?


Over the past several years, we have been on a journey of discovery, or re-discovery, of synodality. The Plenary Council, our Diocesan Assemblies, Regional Assemblies, the Global Synod, pastoral councils, commissions and other advisory bodies have all been ways of exercising synodal listening, discernment and decision-making.

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The practice of listening and discernment has been central to these processes. We have sometimes been accused of ‘over-consultation’ and ‘talk-fests’ rather than action and results. So why then are we holding another Diocesan Assembly?

Will it be another talk-fest? Are we approaching ‘consultation fatigue’?

In February 2023 we were blessed to have received a visit from Sr Nathalie Becquart, Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican and a central figure of the Synod on Synodality. While in Adelaide Sr Nathalie made two very helpful points that might help us understand the ‘why’ of the 2024 Diocesan Assembly.

First, Sr Nathalie explained that synodality must be experienced to be understood. ‘Synodality is learning by doing,’ she explained. No amount of theological study or historical research will satisfy because synodality is a style, a way of being Church. Here in the Archdiocese of Adelaide, we have a lot of experience, contemporary and historical, of listening and discerning, collaboration, shared leadership between lay and ordained and women and men, co-responsibility and so on.

But we aren’t perfect and we still have a long way to go before we can claim that every parish, school, community and agency in the Archdiocese is truly being a synodal Church in mission.

So we must constantly practice, practice, practice until it is evidenced in our ‘customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 27).

The second point that Sr Nathalie shared was the idea of circularity in regard to consultation. Following the global consultation for the Synod on Synodality, continental assemblies were held and reports sent to the Vatican. Then came the synthesis document of the consultation, Enlarge the Space of Your Tent.

Dioceses were asked to give feedback to this document, which then formed the basis for the first session of the Synod last October.

At the end of that session, another synthesis document which outlined the work of the Synod, was sent to all the dioceses again for further feedback. You can read Adelaide’s contribution on the Archdiocesan website.

This circularity (consultation – discernment – consultation – discernment) is a way of tuning in to the voice of the Holy Spirit through the shared discernment of the whole People of God.

Sr Nathalie told us that our Diocese was the only one in the world that she was aware of at the time that is engaging the process of circularity. Our assemblies have always included consultation and discernment, and we have asked in various ways for the outcomes of the assemblies to be further discerned at the local level, such as leadership bodies or in regional assemblies, and fed back to the Archbishop, the Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Bishop’s Council of Priests for decision-making.

The 2024 Diocesan Assembly has two goals this year.

  1. To continue the discernment of significant issues facing the Archdiocese, particularly in our ability to be a more synodal Church in mission. Assembly participants will discuss the following themes: How to be a more synodal Church in mission; Structures of the Church; Leadership in the Church; Pastoral Planning; Mission-Orientation; and Local Responsibility and Action. Further details about these themes are available at
  2. To report and celebrate all that has been accomplished out of these synodal practices. We will hear from the Regional Assemblies, the Diocesan Pastoral Council and Bishop’s Council of Priests and Pastoral Services Team. An incredible amount of work has happened to further the 255 Recommendations from the 2021 Diocesan Assembly, decrees of the Plenary Council, recommendations of the Light from the Southern Cross report, and consultations form the Synod of Synodality.

This assembly will not be a talk-fest. Instead, it will deepen our practice of synodality. As for action and results, that’s up to each one of us; through the dignity of our baptism we share responsibility to participate in the mission in this place.

The 2024 Diocesan Assembly will be held June 14 and 15 at the Vietnamese Catholic Community, 29 South Terrace, Pooraka.

Peter Bierer is assistant director, Pastoral Life and Mission.


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