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Dedicated to mission


In the continuing series on the Interim Diocesan Pastoral Council, we ask Peter Laffan and Sr Mary Ryan rsj about their involvement in the Church, why they nominated to be on the<br /> Council and their hopes for the future.

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Mary Ryan rsj, 75
Director, Mary MacKillop Precinct, Kensington

Since my initial training as a Sister of Saint Joseph, I have lived within five Australian archdioceses and dioceses and have been involved in ministries within the Church at local, diocesan and national levels. I began my Josephite ministry as a primary teacher in Melbourne. The time since then has flown by and gifted me with challenges, adventures, rich experiences, deep friendships, study, travel – all great opportunities to broaden my horizons, deepen my faith and commitment, discover, develop and share my talents.

Those years have taken me to city, country and interstate places – including Adelaide – and led me into some wonderful, rewarding ministries, most of which I never dreamed would come my way. I have been involved in education at primary and secondary and adult levels, parish pastoral ministry, ecumenical university chaplaincy, young adults’ ministry and also leadership/coordination roles in a number of settings, including my present role as inaugural director of Mary MacKillop Precinct in Kensington.

I have a great love for our Church and a dream that we will return to the spirit of the early Christian community where Jesus was at the centre of everyone’s life. I am willing to share with the Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) the fruits of my many years of experience in ministries, together with the insights and skills I have acquired along the way.

I have a deep yearning to see our Church evolve in new, inclusive and life-giving ways for all its members. I dream of developing and promoting what I call ‘church in the round’, where, by virtue of their Baptism, and regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, occupation or social status, all people are equal and treasured, and their gifts are recognised, celebrated and allowed to flourish. Then they, and all whose lives they touch, will fulfil God’s dream for every person ‘to live life to the full’.

I hope that the DPC, in collaboration with Archbishop Pat and the Archdiocesan Leadership Team, will be able to discern key priorities and steer the implementation of strategic actions for the Archdiocese that will lead to a renewed sense of Christian community and commitment to God’s mission – God’s ‘kin-dom’.  Then all will be welcomed, cherished and empowered to grow to their full potential.

I believe that the DPC, working in a spirit of ongoing consultation, dialogue and discernment, can play a pivotal role in assisting individuals, parishes and other communities to devise creative, compassionate, just and practical responses to the yearnings and hopes of the people of Adelaide. These have been amply expressed in recent times in submissions/recommendations to the Plenary Council, the 2021 Diocesan Assembly and the forthcoming Synod.

I believe one challenge we face is restoring hope to countless disillusioned Catholics. On the positive side, opportunities include:


Peter Laffan, 71
Willunga parish

I have been involved in parish leadership, pastoral planning and faith and spiritual formation in Willunga parish and the regional Renewing Church Together in the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island over a seven year period. I was responsible for engaging seven communities in three parishes to respond to Laudato Si’, the Pope’s encyclical on ‘care for our common home’. This included starting a Welcoming Australia group to support refugees and lobby for better government policies, and encouraging Catholics to appreciate the wonders of the natural environment and the fragility of these habitats.

Over the past four years I have been helping develop the diocesan Council for Integral Ecology to enable Catholic communities to become beacons of just, ecologically aware and peaceful ways of living. I am currently a member of the Cabra Chapel Community, led by the Dominican nuns.

I nominated to be a member of the DPC because I want to foster the renewal of the Church by encouraging all of us to a deeper encounter with the crucified and risen Jesus. Faith calls us beyond our safe zones, freeing us to receive the transforming love of God, enabling us to become missionary disciples offering this love to the world. We need personal prayer, vibrant liturgies and creative communities to be able to take on the challenges of meeting Jesus in the faces of suffering people and the pain of creatures and habitats facing collapse.

This vision of Church is a long way from where we are now. Despite importing priests to keep the parishes functioning, and despite the last decade of work on ‘Following in the Footsteps of Jesus – the Eight Gospel pathways for healthy, vibrant, renewing parishes, schools and communities’ there is a general failure to respond to Pope Francis’ call for an evangelising Church.

I think we need an honest assessment of where we are at in relation to our mission. Over recent decades the diocese has chosen ‘maintenance’ over ‘mission’ in the face of falling numbers of Australian-born priests and the end of the era of Catholic education producing new generations of adult Catholics. The overseas-born priests on whom we are reliant have not been given the support to imagine what mission looks like in a post-secular society like Australia.

The Diocesan Pastoral Council has the potential to lead – with Archbishop Pat and the Council of Clergy – the renewal of the Archdiocese so that we can become a Church of missionary disciples. It needs to be open to the initiatives coming from parishes, ecclesial communities and individuals who are being moved by the Spirit to strike out in new directions. It also needs to foster a vision of how the Church today can engage with the realities of the world, through dialogue, service and prophetic words and actions.

The work of the Interim Diocesan Pastoral Council is nearly complete, having developed a draft Vision and Mission Statement, which is now being considered by the whole diocese. The scope for, and interest in, wider dialogue about where we are as a diocese now and what is needed to instil a spirit of adventure has been limited. We have only met quarterly, with a prescribed agenda to develop guidelines for a more permanent Diocesan Pastoral Council.

It is imperative that the Terms of Reference now being worked on allow for greater frequency of meetings and openness to broad discussion of the future of the Archdiocese.


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