The Australian Plenary Council, which concluded last week, has prioritised formation for the apostolate of the laity in its Decree on “Formation and Leadership for Mission and Ministry.”
“Responding to the call for a renewal of formation,” reads §7 of the introduction to Decree 6,, “the Plenary Council endorses principles and strategies that develop models of formation to encourage and strengthen the apostolate of the laity in the world. “
It continues with a strong endorsement of the see-judge-act method for this formation:
This apostolate offers a particular prophetic sign by seeking the common good and by concrete actions that protect and promote human dignity, peace and justice. Attentive to the ‘signs of the times’, movements of the lay apostolate, in their various forms, offer the baptised a way to reflect on the concrete experiences of their lives in the light of the Gospel and engage as missionary disciples in the world.
As a means for formation, the apostolate of the laity is grounded in scriptural reflection, reception of the ecclesial wisdom of our tradition, and prayerful communal discernment. This formation shapes Christian engagement with the broader Australian community through listening and dialogue, and supports actions for the transformation of society through daily commitment and public witness.
“Therefore, to meet the formation needs of the present and future,” §9 adds, “the Plenary Council commits the Church in Australia to developing and committing to a culture of life-long faith formation that will ensure:
a. the diversity of the Catholic community is explicitly recognised;
b. intercultural competency is encouraged, especially in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and spiritualities;
c. the equal dignity of women and men is affirmed and demonstrated;
d. the renewal of faith formation within and for families in the context of the critical role that marriage, parenting, and care-giving plays as a school of formation, is prioritised and strengthened;
e. the apostolate of the laity, along with new ecclesial realities, acting as “leaven in the world,” (Lumen Gentium n. 31) is promoted, encouraged and supported;
f. the hopes, spirituality, giftedness, energy, and modes of communication and connection of young people are identified, incorporated, encouraged and celebrated;
g. ongoing support and strategies for those who minister to young people;
h. the rich variety of spiritual and devotional traditions of the Church are appreciated and celebrated; and
i. synodal practices such as encounter, accompaniment, listening, dialogue, discernment, and collaboration are fostered and deepened.
“By commiting the Australian Church to promoting the apostolate of the laity as a ‘leaven in the world,’ the Plenary has renewed the Vatican II emphasis on lay apostolate formation,” ACI secretary, Stefan Gigacz commented.
“This offers a clear direction to the work of the whole Australian Church,” he added. “It is also a major encouragement to ACI in its own work of promoting the spirituality and methods of Joseph Cardijn, who did so much to bring the lay apostolate to the forefront.”
The decrees of the Plenary Council will now be sent to Rome for ratification. Once this is completed, they will become binding on the Australian Church.
Formation and Leadership for Mission and Ministry (Australian Plenary Council)
2022: Australian Plenary Council: Formation (Australian Cardijn Institute)