By Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB
As most readers of the Record Magazine would know, this is the question which is at the heart of the Plenary Council for which the Church in Australia is preparing at the moment.
The Plenary Council is a formal and very significant meeting which will be attended by all the bishops of Australia, and by a wide variety of Catholics, lay, religious and clergy from across the Church, who will gather together in October 2020 and again in May 2021 to try and “listen to what the Spirit is saying” to us at this crucial time in our history.
The goal of this very important event is to ensure that as we move into the future we, the Church in Australia, do so in radical fidelity to all that God wants for his Church.
For us in the Archdiocese of Perth, of course, this desire to be faithful is already encapsulated in the “motto” of our archdiocesan plan: that we are, and are becoming ever more fully, a people who walk together in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd.
In one sense, it can seem presumptuous or even arrogant to speak of the Church’s fidelity at a time when the infidelity of so many in the Church has been laid bare for all to see.
And yet in the face of the terrible infidelity of some, it becomes even more important that we recommit ourselves to that journey of conversion, renewal and reform which should always be a part of the life of the Church.
For many months in many parishes, agencies, and other Catholic communities in the archdiocese people have been gathering together, listening to each other in an open and respectful way, sharing their own experiences of life in the Church, and in this way trying to catch the voice of God’s Spirit.
Catholic communities in every diocese across our vast country have been doing the same.
As we undertake this journey together, we do not know exactly where the Spirit will lead us and what the Spirit might ask of us.
What we can be sure of is that, as long as we are genuinely trying to listen to the Spirit, we can be confident about the future of the Church in Australia, and more locally in the Archdiocese of Perth.
Some of us might think of ourselves as radicals or progressives. Others might think of ourselves as anything but.
When I speak of “radical fidelity” to all that God wants for his Church, I am thinking of the call to return to the roots (the word “radical” comes from the Latin word for “root”) or to the basics of our faith.
In this sense we might recall the Lord’s words to his disciples in the Gospel of John: “I am the vine, you are the branches. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (John 15:5).
As so many of you have heard me say so often, unless Jesus Christ is at the centre of our lives and of our Church, all our efforts at renewal and reform will come to nothing.
We must try to listen, then, with the mind and heart of Christ.
In communion with him we listen to what is going on in our world and in our hearts; to the experiences, the hopes and the dreams of our brothers and sisters in the faith; to the cry of the poor and the abandoned, the marginalised and the forgotten; to those whose faith is strong and those whose faith is fragile.
And if I may, can I propose that we listen with the hearts and minds of those who want the Church to be, not other than it is, but more fully what it really is: the Body of Christ; the Pilgrim People of God; the sacrament of communion with God and with each other; “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, (called together) to declare the wonderful deeds of God who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (cf 1 Peter 2:9).
So let me ask again, What do you think God is asking of us at this time?
From page 4 and 5 of Issue 17: ‘Plenary 2020: A whole Church entering into mission, dialogue and discernment’ of The Record Magazine