Submission in Response Australian Plenary Council
19 September 2021
A. Preamble and Proposals
The Australian Cardijn Institute and the Jocist movements globally have seen the impact that formation in reading and responding to the signs of the times can have within the Church for the world. By reflecting on their context and experience in the light of the Gospel with others formed in the tradition of the Church (especially traditions of Catholic Social Teaching) and open to the formation that comes from taking responsible action, small groups of ordinary faithful are taking their place in the mission of God.
We urge the Council to draw on the rich experience of the Jocist movements in Australia to revitalise understanding of the lay apostolate, leading to the lay formation and social transformation outlined in what follows. Building on relationships in Review of Life groups, facilitated by appropriate chaplains and resource people, we trust that the Spirit will be at work to encourage and enable faithful and courageous responses to the issues of our context in local situations and beyond.
This would be a commitment to nurture the discipleship of faithful local groups.
We therefore propose that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
- establish a council to be known as the Australian Catholic Council for the Lay Apostolate (ACCLA) to advise the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry. The ACCLA should comprise members with current experience within the lay apostolate and be sufficiently resourced with funds and administrative support.
- provide direct funding to nationally organised movements that promote the lay apostolate as described in the Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity.
- establish and provide financial support through the ACCLA for:
- training in the theology and pedagogy of lay movements promoting faith formation and social transformation for priests, religious and lay people; and
- research, publication and study to foster understanding of the lay apostolate and the application of Catholic Social Teaching.
Our foundation for these proposals is theological, drawing on both Scripture and Tradition and tested by the experience of the movements over decades and in recent years, as outlined in the sections that follow.
B. The kingdom of God and the Good Samaritan
In the Lord’s Prayer, the most fundamental Christian prayer, which is taken from the words of Jesus Christ, we pray for the coming of the kingdom of God on earth. What would the kingdom of God, or, to put it another way, the reign of God, look like? This is not a casual question because, as Christians, this must be an objective in our social relations and in Christian faith formation. These are matters of concern to individual Christians, the Catholic Church and all Christian institutions.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus gives us an insight into the nature and basis of the kingdom of God. Love of neighbour is the fundamental basis of the kingdom. We are to love God through our love of neighbour: in loving our neighbour we love God and build the kingdom of God on earth.
In his most recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis reminds us that “Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in answer to the question: Who is my neighbour?” (n. 80) Pope Francis shows how we must not only respond to the neighbours we come across in our everyday lives, but to our neighbours beyond, and far beyond, our daily lives.
“Jesus’ parable summons us to rediscover our vocation as citizens of our respective nations and of the entire world, builders of a new social bond. This summons is ever new, yet it is grounded in a fundamental law of our being: we are called to direct society to the pursuit of the common good and, with this purpose in mind, to persevere in consolidating its political and social order, its fabric of relations, its human goals.” (n. 66)
Pope Francis concludes his chapter on the parable of the Good Samaritan with the following:
“For Christians, the words of Jesus have an even deeper meaning. They compel us to recognize Christ himself in each of our abandoned or excluded brothers and sisters (cf. Mt 25:40.45). Faith has untold power to inspire and sustain our respect for others, for believers come to know that God loves every man and woman with infinite love and “thereby confers infinite dignity” upon all humanity…
[I]t is important that catechesis and preaching speak more directly and clearly about the social meaning of existence, the fraternal dimension of spirituality, our conviction of the inalienable dignity of each person, and our reasons for loving and accepting all our brothers and sisters.” (n. 85 and 86, footnote omitted.)
Spreading the Word and the love of God are inextricably linked with the love of neighbour and the building of a society based on the truly human values of love and justice.
What would a kingdom of God that is based on love of neighbour look like? There are many dimensions to it. Christians acting in good faith might disagree about some of those dimensions, but the critical and necessary feature would be the protection and support of the poor, vulnerable and marginalised through the promotion of the common good. The Catholic understanding of the common good comes from a theologically based view of human dignity and social justice. The common good requires that social institutions be ordered in a way that guarantees all persons the ability to participate actively in the economic, political, and cultural life of society. It requires various kinds of social safety nets.
Each Christian has both a personal and a social apostolate. The term “apostolate” describes the mission of Christians. In the personal apostolate, the Christian responds to the situations, issues, and needs of his or her daily life. In the social apostolate, the Christian is called to move beyond his or her own circumstances and, usually in necessary cooperation with others, address broader social issues that impact on those they would never meet. The social apostolate may be exercised through Christian organisations and/or the various institutions of civil society.
C. The Second Vatican Council
This connection with the world is highlighted in the opening paragraphs of Gaudium et Spes, promulgated at the end of the Second Vatican Council (VaticanII):
“The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.” (The Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, also known as Gaudium et Spes, n. 1).
Gaudium et Spes followed the promulgation of various decrees on the nature, activities and structure of the Church and extensive consultations on the discernment of the “signs of the times.”
“ ….To carry out such a task the Church has always had the duty of scrutinising the signs of the times and interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.” (n. 2 and 4)
The Council stressed that there can be no split between the obligations of faith and the obligations to society:
“This council exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit. They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come, think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities. For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation. Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age.” (n. 43)
In these passages we have the basic religious and secular missions of Christians and the nature and purpose of Christian faith formation. Clearly, they must shape the mission and functions of the Catholic Church.
For lay Catholics, faith formation is inextricably linked to the realities of the world in which they live and the demands on them to love their neighbours, whether those neighbours are met face to face in their ordinary daily lives or are distant from them with names unknown.
The teaching on the role of the laity in the world and on the formation of Catholics within the Church were central and indispensable parts of the work of Vatican II. Its Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem) describes “the nature, character, and diversity of the lay apostolate, to state its basic principles, and to give pastoral directives for its more effective exercise” (n. 1):
“The apostolate of the laity derives from their Christian vocation and the Church can never be without it.” (Ibid.)
“Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardour of the spirit of Christ.” (Ibid.)
“Christ’s redemptive work, while essentially concerned with the salvation of men, includes also the renewal of the whole temporal order. Hence the mission of the Church is not only to bring the message and grace of Christ to men but also to penetrate and perfect the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel. In fulfilling this mission of the Church, the Christian laity exercise their apostolate both in the Church and in the world, in both the spiritual and the temporal orders. These orders, although distinct, are so connected in the singular plan of God that He Himself intends to raise up the whole world again in Christ and to make it a new creation, initially on earth and completely on the last day. In both orders the layman, being simultaneously a believer and a citizen, should be continuously led by the same Christian conscience.” (n. 5)
“The laity can engage in their apostolic activity either as individuals or together as members of various groups or associations.” (n. 15)
The Church as a whole and many of the organisations within it have two critical functions. First, to promote and support the lay apostolate, as described above. This will be done through, for example, preaching, faith formation activities in schools and parishes and Episcopal pastoral messages. Second, the Church and institutions within it must have an institutional engagement with society. This includes the advocacy cross a wide range of social issues and the delivery of social services, especially for the vulnerable and the marginalised. Advocacy and service delivery comprise the Church’s social ministry.
D. The Jocist approach to faith formation: The Review of Life
Jocist movements and Jocism, which were inspired by Joseph Cardijn (a priest and later a cardinal), were driving forces within the Catholic Action movements of the early part of the twentieth century. The terms Jocist and Jocism are derived from the name of the organisation founded by Fr Joseph Cardijn in 1924, the Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne (JOC), or Young Christian Workers (YCW).
Jocist movements emphasised the connection between faith formation and temporal transformation through small groups using the “see, judge, act” methodology, by which participants come to understand the realities of their lives and the needs of others, to reflect on those situations in the light of the Gospels and the requirements of faith and justice, and to commit to informed actions in response to those situations. It was summarised as “formation through action.”
The development and application of this methodology was recognised by St John XXIII:
“There are three stages which should normally be followed in the reduction of social principles into practice. First, one reviews the concrete situation; secondly, one forms a judgment on it in the light of these same principles; thirdly, one decides what in the circumstances can and should be done to implement these principles. These are the three stages that are usually expressed in the three terms: look, judge, act.” (Mater et Magistra, 1961, n. 236)
The modern articulation of the Church’s social principles date from 1891, with the publication of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum. Rerum Novarum was principally concerned with the relations between capital and labour and the rights of workers. The centrality of work to human development and the rights of workers have continued as key themes in Catholic social doctrine, commonly known as Catholic Social Teaching.
During the twentieth century the scope of Catholic social doctrine expanded in response to emerging concerns about various social issues. St John Paul II has stressed that evangelisation includes the proclamation and application of the Church’s social doctrine:
“The Church, in fact, has something to say about specific human situations, both individual and communal, national and international. She formulates a genuine doctrine for these situations, a corpus which enables her to analyse social realities, to make judgments about them and to indicate directions to be taken for the just resolution of the problems involved….
Today, at a distance of a hundred years [from Rerum Novarum], the validity of this approach affords me the opportunity to contribute to the development of Christian social doctrine. The “new evangelization”, which the modern world urgently needs and which I have emphasized many times, must include among its essential elements a proclamation of the Church’s social doctrine. As in the days of Pope Leo XIII, this doctrine is still suitable for indicating the right way to respond to the great challenges of today, when ideologies are being increasingly discredited. Now, as then, we need to repeat that there can be no genuine solution of the “social question” apart from the Gospel, and that the”new things” can find in the Gospel the context for their correct understanding and the proper moral perspective for judgment on them.” (Centesimus Annus, 1991, n. 5)
The see, judge, act methodology has been used since the 1920s. Jocist meetings in Australia, from the 1940s, were generally organised around a Gospel discussion, the Personal Enquiry and the Social Enquiry, with each enquiry using the see, judge, act methodology.
Social enquiries, where a Jocist group undertakes enquiry into a social issue (such as racism or climate change), remain firmly based on the see, judge, act methodology, with Catholic Social Teaching being a key reference point. This methodology is also well-suited to, for example, a social justice group in a school or parish. While the focus of these enquiries is a social issue, personal formation should also develop in the process through a better understanding of the Gospels and Catholic Social Teaching.
The Personal Enquiry, starting from the personal and everyday life experiences of members, is a process for faith formation and for changing the lives of members and those about them using the see, judge, act methodology. The Personal Enquiry was a quest for understanding how God calls us through discovering and responding to the needs of those around us.
Since Vatican II, the Personal Enquiry has become known as the Review of Life. Although the Review of Life is still based on the see, judge, act process, it is more than a part of the group meeting. The Review of Life also applies in the personal lives of each member, helping each of them to develop an understanding of the reality of their own lives, to reflect on relevant Gospel teachings and values, and to chart a response to the issues, opportunities, and challenges in their lives. This Review of Life is not just a silent reflection on life with oneself, but a conversation with God, a Prayer of Life. This kind of spirituality is a goal of Jocism.
A Jocist group works towards, these three components (Gospel, Review and Enquiry) in its meetings.
The distinctive objective of Jocist groups should be the three interconnected goals of faith formation, social transformation, and leadership development.
Jocist groups will start and develop in different ways; for example, a group might develop from a parish students’ group which has been running a campaign on the environment, an adult group might grow out of a parish social justice group, or a young adults group might be the result of an initiative of a priest to bring together parishioners who are concerned about some local social issues.
Lay Catholics can come to a realisation of their Christian vocation in different ways. For some, their growing understanding of the social dimensions of their faith will lead to social action. For others, social action, supported by a growing understanding of the connection between social action and the Gospels, will be how they come to a deeper understanding of their faith. Faith formation is a journey that has different starting points.
In an appended Attachment we have included a summary by the Australian Young Christian Students of its Jocist theology and pedagogy.
E. The lay apostolate and lay ministry: A vital distinction
The term “apostolate” describes the way in which Christians are to live their faith. Each Christian has both a personal and a social apostolate in living out their mission as a follower of Christ. In the personal apostolate the Christian responds to the situations, issues, and needs of his or her daily life. In the social apostolate the Christian is called to move beyond his or her own circumstances, usually in cooperation with others, to engage in broader social issues. The lay apostolate has personal and social dimensions.
Within the Church and its institutions there is a variety of activities, or ministries, which are concerned with the internal operation and affairs of the Church. The terms “Lay Ministry” and “Lay Pastoral Ministry” and “Lay Ecclesial Ministry” have been applied to describe the range of functions performed by lay people, including sacramental preparation, pastoral, liturgical, spiritual, and administrative functions. These ministers include full time trained and accredited employees and volunteers working a small number of hours on specific tasks in parishes.
An essential feature of lay ministry is that the appointment to the position “requires authorisation from the competent authority… A self-discerned call is not sufficient.”; see Faithful Stewards of God’s Grace: Lay Pastoral Ministers in the Church in Australia, published by the ACBC. July 2018, page 32.
On the other hand, formation in the lay apostolate promotes self-discernment so that the Christian can better live out his or her faith.
There is an obvious connection between the work in lay ministry and the development of the lay apostolate within the Church. The formation of Catholics for and within the lay apostolate will provide a source of committed workers and volunteers for the organisational requirements of the Church and for its social ministry initiatives.
While Catholic organisations have a vital interest in supporting initiatives to ensure that they will have a sufficient number of committed Catholics working for them, the lay apostolate is about much more than that. The Church, at all levels, but especially at the diocesan and national levels, is obliged to provide personal and organisational support for programs to develop the lay apostolate.
F. The Church’s obligation to support and promote the lay apostolate
F.1. The lay apostolate
In his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis recognised the right of that the laity have to participate inside the Church and to their need for, and right to, formation to prepare them for their apostolate outside the Church.
“Lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the People of God. The minority – ordained ministers – are at their service. There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church. We can count on many lay persons, although still not nearly enough, who have a deeply-rooted sense of community and great fidelity to the tasks of charity, catechesis and the celebration of the faith.
At the same time, a clear awareness of this responsibility of the laity, grounded in their baptism and confirmation, does not appear in the same way in all places. In some cases, it is because in their particular Churches room has not been made for them to speak and to act, due to an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision making.
Even if many are now involved in the lay ministries, this involvement is not reflected in a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors. It often remains tied to tasks within the Church, without a real commitment to applying the Gospel to the transformation of society. The formation of the laity and evangelisation of professional and intellectual life represent a significant pastoral challenge.” (Evangelii Gaudium n. 102, emphasis added)
Pope Francis’ concerns about the failures to promote the apostolate of the laity was reflected in ACI’s submission of 6 March 2019 to the Plenary Council planning group. ACI wrote, in part:
“Astonishingly, in the decades since Vatican II, however, the Australian Church appears to have largely lost sight of this specifically lay vocation of lay people to transform the world.
A striking indicator of this can be found in the relative abundance of the use of the terms “lay apostolate” and “lay ministry” on the website of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, www.catholic.org.au. Here, we find a total of 39 largely inconsequential references to “lay apostolate,” In contrast, there are a total of 160 references to “lay ministry,” the first of which is a reference to “Lay Pastoral Ministry News.”
While it is true that many dioceses have social justice councils and that many Church organisations do great work in the charitable and social welfare fields, it is difficult to ignore the fact that the Church has lost its Vatican II focus on the importance of the role of lay people in transforming the world, beginning from the everyday circumstances of their lives at work, in the home and the local community.”
However, this loss in the Church of an understanding and commitment to the lay apostolate and formation for the lay apostolate remains evident in the Plenary Council process. In Phase 2 of the process, the “Listening and Discerning” phase, six reports were prepared on separate topics.
The most relevant to the lay apostolate among these reports was Missionary and Evangelising?. The report covers a range of important matters, but, in our view,does not articulate a sufficient description of the nature and requirements of the lay apostolate.
The key reference point for the Plenary Council, apart from the published agenda, is now the Instrumentum Laboris, or Working Document, which was published in February 2021. Our first observation is that the word “apostolate” appears only twice in a document of 39 pages. The first is in a footnote to the Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem).
Our second observation relates to paragraph 96, which appears in the context of the need for the Catholics to “read the signs of the times”:
“Since the Second Vatican Council, Church teaching has often read the signs of the times by employing the See-Judge-Act method associated with the lay apostolate of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn.”
While it is true that the understanding of the lay apostolate is closely associated with Cardijn, we believe that the reference here should be to “the lay apostolate as envisioned by Vatican II.”
In this context, Cardijn was a leading voice among those bishops who worked on the articulation of the role of the Church in the world and the apostolate of the laity as they appear in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) and the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem).
Is the absence of any substantive consideration by the Plenary of the apostolate of the laity a reflection of change in terminology or something more?
F.2. Formation for the lay apostolate
During Phase 2 of the Plenary consultation process various groups around the country met and reported their views, which were taken into account by the relevant working groups. The feedback relevant to each working group has been collated and published. The report in respect of Missionary and Evangelising contains 128 references to “formation.”
What stands out from these references is the need for programs to develop and provide that formation. Yet, there is little to indicate what formation might involve; see: Responses to discernment: How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church that is missionary and evangelising?
In a Media Release of 3 June 2021, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) also insists on the importance of formation:
“The importance of formation, understood in this context as including education and training, has been emphasised by recent inquiries, research and submissions. Formation is for all the baptised and is life-long. It forms faith, shapes discipleship, deepens spirituality, enhances understanding, increases knowledge, effects conversion, builds Church community, fosters co-responsibility for the Church’s mission and equips Catholics for service.
Formation needs to be specifically tailored for particular vocations and ministries within the Church community. Formation may include initiatives, courses and programs offered by Catholic institutions and organisations, as well as secular institutions and organisations…”
ACI welcomes this significant commitment to lay formation within the Church. We believe that this formation needs to focus specifically on the lay or secular vocation of lay people. The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, at n.. 29, is relevant here emphasising that:
“since the laity share in their own way in the mission of the Church, their apostolic formation is specially characterised by the distinctively secular and particular quality of the lay state and by its own form of the spiritual life.”
This formation “cannot consist in merely theoretical instruction.” “from the beginning of their formation the laity should gradually and prudently learn how to view, judge and do all things in the light of faith as well as to develop and improve themselves along with others through doing, thereby entering into active service to the Church.”
This is the kind of formation that will develop the “missionary impulse capable of transforming everything” that Pope Francis called for in Evangelii Gaudium and adopted by the Australian bishops:
“While certainly about renewing and building up the Church, this missionary impulse is also about offering society a new vision of what it can become – a vision centred in Jesus and the way of living he has shown us: acting humbly, seeking justice, speaking truth, offering healing and leading by service. The Conference embraces this missionary impulse and invites others to share in the work of proclaiming and promoting Christ’s vision in contemporary Australian society.” (ACBC Media Release, 3 July 2021)
Also relevant in this context is the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, at n. 32, which states that “centres of documentation and study not only in theology but also in anthropology, psychology, sociology, and methodology should be established for all fields of the apostolate for the better development of the natural capacities of the laity – men and women, young persons and adults.”
F.3. Synodal structures fostering cooperation with lay people and groups/movements
Vatican II set out its vision for involving lay people and groups/movements in the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, n. 26.
Indeed, it proposed lay apostolate councils at every level of the Church from parish to national level in which “the clergy and Religious should cooperate with the laity”. It further envisaged that “lay associations and enterprises” would be directly involved in this work and sought to promote means for cooperation and coordination of this “while preserving the proper character and autonomy of each organisation.” (n. 26)
The Preparatory Document for the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops reinforces this perspective. Synodality or “journeying together,” it says “extends to the ways in which each particular Church integrates within itself the contribution of the various forms of monastic, religious, and consecrated life, of lay associations and movements…”
In the years following Vatican II, the ACBC, which was established in 1966, appointed the Bishops’ Committee for the Lay Apostolate which, as the name suggests, had responsibility for the promotion and support of the lay apostolate. This included the provision of direct financial support for, among others, the YCW and the YCS. (The YCW and the YCS were officially established as Catholic Action movements by the Australian Bishops in 1941 and 1942, respectively.) At that time, there was little conception of what has now become known as “Lay Ministry” work.
Over the decades the structure of the ACBC has changed and, in recent years, the responsibility for the promotion and support of the lay apostolate has been included within the mandate of the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry. Advisory Councils may be appointed to assist Bishops’ Commissions. The current mandate for this Bishops Commission is here.
In July 2021 the ACBC advertised for expressions of interest from Catholics wishing to serve on the proposed Council for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry. The advertisement included the following information: “The Council will assist the Commission with insights, experiences and consultation with local Catholic communities. It will also advise the Commission in planning and developing strategies related to outreach, evangelisation, and formation, among other tasks.”
Regarding this Commission and Council, it is immediately striking that, despite the overwhelming emphasis on lay apostolate in the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, the titles and the functions emphasise “lay ministry” rather than to the “lay apostolate.”
While ACI supports the establishment of the Council for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry to assist the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry in fulfilling the terms of its very broad mandate, we believe that there should also be a Council established to advise this Commission on matters related to the lay apostolate, with its terms of reference and its membership broad enough to comply with the vision of Vatican II, reinforced by Pope Francis’ emphasis on promoting synodality. We turn to this in the next section.
We conclude this section by posing a question about how Vatican II-inspired Australian Catholics of five decades ago would have reacted to a prediction that a Plenary Council in 2021 would be, as it is, so devoid of Catholic lay organisations and of lay participation by those whose vocation is not within Church employment. (We refer to the recently published list of delegates and advisers.) Would those Catholics conclude that the teachings of Vatican II on the role of the Church in the world and the vocation of lay Catholics have been learned and applied in Australia by 2021? In our view the answer would surely be in the negative, not merely because of the selection of delegates and advisers, but because of a failure to develop the lay apostolate in accordance with the teachings of Vatican II.
ACI’s 2019 submission to the Plenary Council in 6 March 2019 concluded:
“ACI therefore calls on the Australian Plenary Council to shift the focus from an inward-looking Church-centred concern with ministry to an outward-looking world-centred approach based on the lay apostolate as understood and embodied in the documents of Vatican II. Given the events of the last few decades, a lot of ‘repair work’ also needs to be done to help the Church regain its status amongst Catholic and non-Catholic communities; and how else to achieve this but by means of the lay apostolate? In line with this vision, ACI also calls for a renewed focus on lay formation at every level of the Church that will enable people to grasp the importance of their Christian mission in transforming the world beginning with their every day lives.
Practical measures to achieve this could include:
- Promoting more organised courses of study on the lay apostolate and Catholic Social Teaching, particularly at Catholic tertiary institutions;
- Greater support of all kinds (personnel, resources) for the lay movements, such as the YCW, YCS and others, including new movements or initiatives, that are committed to this Vatican II vision of lay apostolate;
- Making more priests, religious and lay people available as chaplains, mentors and assistants.”
In the two and a half years since that submission was written, there have been extensive consultations and many publications on the mission and structure of the Catholic Church in Australia and the challenges and opportunities ahead of it. Despite all of the good and constructive work that has been done in this preparation for the Plenary Council, the process has failed, in our view, to present “an outward-looking world-centred approach based on the lay apostolate as understood and embodied in the documents of Vatican II.” We have been told repeatedly that it is now too late to raise these issues because the agenda the Plenary Council, or at least its October 2021 session, has been set. We trust this is not true and, as it was at Vatican II, the Catholic Church in Australia can work towards a contemporary articulation of the social needs of Australian society and the role of the Catholic laity in meeting those needs.
A principal purpose of the Australian Cardijn Institute is to develop and promote the kind of lay formation and social transformation that are outlined earlier in this submission. Having regard to the matters arising out of the Plenary Council process, the Australian Cardijn Institute proposes that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
establish a council to be known as the Australian Catholic Council for the Lay Apostolate (ACCLA) to advise the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry. The ACCLA should comprise members with current experience within the lay apostolate and be sufficiently resourced with funds and administrative support.
provide direct funding to nationally organised movements that promote the lay apostolate as described in the Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity.
establish and provide financial support through the ACCLA for: training in the theology and pedagogy of lay movements promoting faith formation and social transformation for priests, religious and lay people; and research, publication and study to foster understanding of the lay apostolate and the application of Catholic Social Teaching.
Extract from the “NUTS” Introductory Program of the Australian Young Christian Students
(“NUTS” is the acronym for “Never Underestimate The Students”)
National Exec Letter
A major part of the mission of the YCS is to work for a fairer and more just society consistent with the teachings and values of Jesus Christ and the principles and objectives of Catholic Social Teaching.
But the YCS is more than that. There is something closer to home. The YCS also challenges students to focus on the reality of their own lives and the lives of those around them; for example, the needs of other students within their schools and local communities.
But the YCS is even more than that. Engaging with the world, from the local to the global, and working to improve the lives of our nearest neighbours through to those we will never meet will transform the YCS member. Leadership skills, self confidence and social friendships will grow, not because they are pursued for personal improvement, but because they are the result of a commitment to something above and beyond self-interest.
So the YCS is a “formation through action” movement. Formation means different things to different people. When we talk of formation in the YCS we talk about Christian formation: where engagement in the world and serving the needs of others is seen as inextricably linked to a commitment to Jesus Christ.
At the heart of the YCS is what is called the Review of Life or the “See, Judge, Act” methodology. It is used by YCS groups as a method or process for discovering, evaluating and acting on a wide range of topics.
But the Review of Life is more than a methodology for dealing with social issues. It is also personal. It is a way of thinking and working our way through a wide range of issues that come into our personal lives, where the judging or evaluating part of the process helps us to better understand ourselves and our relationships with others.
And there is another dimension to the Review of Life that moves us beyond the purely human. The Review of Life is also a process in which our personal and silent reflections on the realities of a commitment to Jesus Christ can become our prayers of life.
The NUTS program will introduce you to the YCS’s way of thinking and how it operates. We hope it will take you on a journey of social engagement and spiritual discovery.
Submission to the Australian Plenary Council 2021 (Australian Cardijn Institute)