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Supporting a synodal approach to change


In our continuing series on the Interim Diocesan Pastoral Council, Orla Wright and John Giles explain why they nominated to be on the Council and share their hopes for the future.

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John Giles, 74
Change Manager (semi-retired) Church of Nativity
Aberfoyle Park

With my wife Connie and son Zach I moved to Adelaide from Sydney to downsize and rejoin other family six years ago. My involvement with the Church in Sydney was pretty much as a ‘mainstream’ parishioner of the St Catherine Laboure parish at Gymea. The former parish priest of St Cath’s, Mgr Bryan Rayner, was, and still is, a great mate who supported my family on a number of occasions, when needed.

When we arrived in Adelaide Connie and I found that the Church of the Nativity at Aberfoyle Park was our nearest church so we started attending Mass there. After one Sunday Mass there was a forum on church renewal and I joined in. I was in a small group with the then parish priest Fr Charles Lukati who persuaded (coerced, whatever) me to join the Parish Pastoral Council and over time I have become the chair.

The parish is full of great people with a high participation and volunteer rate. Our current parish priest Fr Paul Mwaura promotes the idea of building community and that suits the Nativity perfectly.

I nominated for the DPC as I believe there are many areas where the Church needs to change and because of my profession I believe I could add value and recommend strategies to support any nominated changes.

I don’t believe that people resist every change but I do believe that any change needs to be supported by respectful communication and the active engagement of all those impacted by the change.

I take a collegiate approach to change so what I would like the DPC to achieve, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is to overcome the limitations of operating in the belly of a very traditional bureaucracy and present a fresh approach of engagement to all Adelaide parishioners. We need to show results.

It is extremely important. If it fails at this opportunity it will be a long time before it gets another chance. We need to build on the momentum of the Plenary and the Assembly and the goodwill of all those who have been, and those that still are, involved.

People are growing weary of consultation. But, if the DPC takes a synodal approach, and as a result, produces tangible results, people will become re-energised.

The challenges for the DPC are many – from establishing and keeping a clear group focus;  trying to respond effectively to disparate stakeholders; developing clear meaningful messages; engaging with and energising parishioners; producing tangible results in a strict timeframe; and while doing so, developing into an effective team.

The opportunities are huge. We are at a point of Catholic Church history in Adelaide where seeking church reform is swimming with the tide and not swimming against the tide. If we are too timid we will achieve little. If we are too bold we will learn.

I believe the DPC should live the recommendations regarding the DPC in The Light from the Southern Cross report.

Orla Wright, 54

Pastoral Services coordinator
(Adelaide Archdiocese)
Plympton parish


I have been involved in Church life from as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is standing outside the church in the snow holding a St Vinnies collection box around the age of five.

My faith has shaped who I am, it is part of my DNA. I have taken up many volunteer roles within parish life over the years which led me to working as a pastoral associate for 18 years before taking on my current role as Pastoral Services coordinator within the Diocese.

Pope Francis has called for us to be a synodal church and I believe both parish and diocesan pastoral councils are a major expression of synodality in our Church.

The Church and my faith have supported me in both the joys and sorrows of my life and while the Church is lacking in many ways, I believe it is up to each of us, as the Body of Christ, to work together to make our Church the place of welcome and hope that I believe God desires it to be.

If we are to truly live out of our baptismal call to be priest, prophet and king, then each of us needs to endeavour to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

We are the Church and it is up to us to create change from within.

A major part of my role within the Diocese is to work with parish pastoral councils and I feel it is important that I am aware of the activities of the DPC so that they can also be modelled in local community councils

In being part of the DPC, I hope to discern with others what it is that God is asking of our Church in these times.

Through being open to the opinions of others, listening to all the voices in our communities in an atmosphere of prayerful discernment, there is much to be learned and hopefully we as a council can find new ways of incorporating the voices of all into our planning.

The DPC will be pivotal in shaping the future of pastoral planning in the Archdiocese. It is through the DPC that synodality can be modelled for our whole church.

If we discern prayerfully the voices of our communities, then the collective wisdom of our group will be Spirit-led and directed, which can only be for good.

A major challenge for the DPC or any church council for that matter, is to be able to put our egos aside so that we become true servant leaders, always open to where the Spirit is leading us.

The biggest opportunity is to be able to take an active role in creating a vibrant and welcoming Church, one which breathes the Good News of Christ and draws others into that life.


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