2022: Australian Plenary Council: Formation


7. Responding to the call for a renewal of formation, the Plenary Council endorses  principles and strategies that develop models of formation to encourage and strengthen the  apostolate of the laity in the world. 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. 

8. In addressing these concerns for formation, it is important to consider and provide for  both the needs of communities in this present time and the needs of the next generation.  Particular attention is required to attend to the formation needs of regional and rural  communities. Formation in faith and new forms of missionary discipleship lie at the heart of  this Council’s work of planning for the future.  

9. THEREFORE, to meet the formation needs of the present and future, 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.




The Fifth Plenary Council decrees: 

Article 1 

That each diocese and eparchy develop or strengthen strategic policies grounded in fidelity  to the Gospel and closeness to Jesus Christ, to identify and support ministry and leadership  formation. These will: 

a. acknowledge the generational, cultural and ethnic diversity of the contemporary  Church in Australia; 

b. recognise the changing community profile of many parish and faith communities,  incorporating an awareness of and outreach to those beyond these communities; 

c. enhance knowledge and skills for participating in local churches’ structures and  processes for consultation, dialogue and decision-making; 

d. address the particular needs of clergy, with focuses on initial formation and selection  processes, and ongoing support and formation; 

e. include strategies for initiation, ongoing formation and appropriate forms of mentoring  and accompaniment (human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral) that foster  collaboration and are grounded in adult education principles; 

f. provide ongoing support and strategies for those who minister to young people; 

g. support opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics to undertake  formation and training, ensuring that local circumstances and social data are taken into  account; and 

h. consider avenues for financial support through scholarships, sponsorships and grants. 

Article 2 

That the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference commission the Australian Catholic Biblical  Association and the Australian Catholic Theological Association to liaise with appropriate  Catholic and diocesan agencies, institutions and educational providers in order to enhance  cross-institutional engagement and development of resources and formation programs. The  design of these resources and programs will carefully consider the needs of rural, remote, and  regional areas and creatively assess the use of available technology in order to improve  delivery and accessibility.  

Article 3 

That the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference establish a working group with expertise in  formation to develop national Formation for Leadership strategies and guidelines designed  for clergy, religious and lay leaders to address the possibilities and challenges of synodal 

leadership in parishes and diocesan and eparchial agencies and support the Church’s work of  evangelisation. These strategies and guidelines will:  

a. have a national scope and be adaptable to local circumstances;  

b. aim to enhance competencies in leadership and commitment to synodal practices, with  a focus on building communities that are welcoming to all, with particular attention to  those on the margins of society and the Church;  

c. identify and promote models of effective engagement with government and civil  society; 

d. ensure leaders are formed in scripture, tradition and ecclesiology; and  

e. foster a spirituality of leadership through personal and communal prayer, connection  to the sacramental life of the church, and commitment to service 

Article 4 

That the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference establish a working group with expertise in  Catholic Social Teaching to develop a national framework for formation in Catholic Social  Teaching that will encourage, support and expand the offering of programs in Catholic Social  Teaching. Situated within the broader teaching and mission of the Church, this framework will  emphasise the social dimension of the Church’s mission, incorporating contemporary analysis  of the Australian context, with a particular focus on the formation requirements of leaders in  Catholic social service, health and aged care organisations, Catholic education and dioceses. 


Australian Plenary Council, Formation and Leadership for Mission and Ministry