The training and formation of lay missionaries of the Church at all levels was high on the list of priorities for a recent international symposium in Rome.
Australian representatives attended the symposium on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
The symposium, themed “Promotion and Formation of the Laity: Best Practices”, was held over three days at the end of September 2018.
The Australian delegates were: Andrea Dean, Director of the Office for the Participation of Women; and Peter Gates, Catholic Mission Deputy National Director.
The conference, run by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, brought representatives from around the globe together to discuss the importance of lay formation – a timely and pertinent topic for the Church in Australia as the Plenary Council 2020 unfolds.
“It was a genuine experience of sharing the successes and struggles of the real world, the real Church, with those working for the Church in Rome,” Ms Dean said.
Her office has earlier this year launched the Leadership for Mission initiative, a graduate programme for women run through the Australian Catholic University.
“As an Australian, I was very conscious of how young the Church is in this country and the modest number of Catholics here,” Ms Dean added.
“In contrast to the reports from other episcopal conferences, which highlighted large-scale, national formation programmes, the ‘best practice’ examples that we chose to share were targeted and localised.”
Ms Dean said that the two-year programme offering a sustained experience of mission, Leadership for Mission supports profound growth.
“Because the programme includes the opportunity to share faith in community, connect theology and life, engage in mission and reflect on God’s presence in the everyday, the women become firm friends and true spiritual companions,” she said.
Mr Gates agreed that the Church in Australia was embracing lay formation for leadership in mission and through a wide range of ministries and vocations.
“The Plenary Council process is just one way the Church in Australia is encouraging broader participation and responding to Pope Francis’ call to be an outward-looking Church of inclusion, dialogue and encounter,” Mr Gates described.
Catholic Mission will next year jointly deliver the fourth “Mission: one heart many voices” conference with Catholic Religious Australia.
With some 500 delegates expected, it has grown to be Australia’s premier conference on mission, delivering practical ways to live the joy of the Gospel and lead the mission in professional and personal contexts.