News from the Diocese


Catholic Diocese of Wollongong serving the people of God in the Illawarra, Macarthur, Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands regions of NSW
  • Pastoral letter from Bishop Brian Mascord on the sentencing of Cardinal Pell


    My Sisters and Brothers

    Conscious of the decision given today in Melbourne, I write to you amid the hurt, confusion, anger and other emotions that we may all feel at this time. As you would be aware, Cardinal George Pell was given a six-year custodial sentence relating to five charges of child sexual abuse.

    Uppermost in my mind is the concern for those who have been abused. Recovery from such trauma can take a lifetime, if at all. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we need to give support to those who have been abused and ensure, in very practical ways, that our children and vulnerable people are safe in our communities.

    At this time, I recognise the pain this whole matter has caused you as fellow members of the Catholic community. The abuse of minors by those ordained to represent the love and mercy of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is a profound betrayal of people entrusted to their pastoral care.

    I am also aware that Cardinal Pell has lodged an appeal against his conviction, as he has every right to do under Australian law. Therefore, it is not appropriate for me to make any further comment that could be seen to prejudice the outcome of the appeals process.

    This is a difficult time for everyone as the pain of today is being felt by so many—it is a shared pain. Let us reaffirm our desire, broken as we are, to become the Church that Jesus calls us to be.

    I offer my continued support, and if you desire any assistance, please contact the diocesan director of professional standards and safeguarding, Ms Asante Viswasam, on (02) 4222 2405. If you would prefer to speak to an external organisation for support, LifeLine is available on 13 11 14.

    Yours in Christ


    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    13 March 2019

  • POSITION VACANT – Diocesan Trainee Internal Auditor (Casual)


    Due to growth, the Internal Audit Department is seeking to fill the position of a Trainee Internal Auditor. We are looking to secure a person currently studying towards a degree in Business or Commerce majoring in Accounting or a similar discipline. This position will offer casual working hours in line with the successful candidate’s study timetable.

    The role is a casual trainee position with on the job training and mentoring to support the development of the necessary skills to undertake a junior auditor level role. The role will be responsible for assisting and providing support to the Diocesan Internal Auditor in the coordination and conduct of internal audit services to the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong; including undertaking other related activities in order to add value and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control and governance processes in the Diocese.

    Applicants must submit a covering letter which clearly details their skills and experience as relevant to the essential requirements for the role and personal commitment to the ethos and values of the Catholic Church. Must provide an up to date resume outlining your qualifications (current studies), overall skills and experience. The names and contact details of at least two referees.

    Appointments are subject to reference checks, required following checks/clearances:

    • National criminal History record check
    • Working with children check clearance

    Cick here to download the position description.

    Applications to be addressed to:

    Mrs Karen Rushworth
    Diocesan Internal Auditor
    PO Box 1239 Wollongong NSW 2500

    Applications can also be emailed to karen [DOT] rushworth [AT] dow [DOT] org [DOT] au

    For all enquiries, contact Karen Rushworth on 0427 514 184 or email karen [DOT] rushworth [AT] dow [DOT] org [DOT] au Applications close Friday 15 February 2019.

  • Trust—Lenten Program 2019 | ORDER NOW



    We are pleased to announce that we are now taking orders for our TRUST—Lenten Program 2019 book and triple CD resource.

    TRUST is a 76-page full colour book (240x170mm) with bulk pricing starting from only $5.00 per copy (for GST Free Catholic Religious Groups).

    TRUST also includes short daily reflections (from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday) in addition to the longer-form Sunday Gospel reflections, spiritual direction, gospel readings, responsorial psalms, prayers and reflection questions that are traditionally part of the Lenten program for groups.

    Therefore, TRUST is also perfect for individuals who cannot attend a Lenten group.

    For those part of a Lenten group, we are honoured to have Fr Sean Cullen (parish priest at St Thomas Aquinas Parish in Bowral and St Michael’s Parish in Mittagong) and Sr Hilda Scott OSB (vocations director at the Benedictine Abbey, Jamberoo) providing the Sunday Gopel reflections and spiritual direction. The shorter daily reflections have been written by 14 fantastic clergy, religious and lay contributors from around the world.

    TRUST also features beautiful religious artworks from the Masters such Rembrandt, Rivière, Rubens, Fetti, Batoni and Ciseri which Monsignor Graham Schmitzer expertly breaks open as part of his popular artwork reflections.


    TRUST is accompanied by a Triple CD Resource that includes six beautiful responsorial psalms recorded especially for the Lenten program—written by acclaimed Catholic composer, Paul Mason, and arranged and performed by one of Australia’s leading session musicians, Seth Harsh, and sung by the talented Michaela Rose and Fiesta Mataele.

    The Triple CD resource also includes audio narrations of the readings by Bishop Brian Mascord and Jude Hennessy, and audio narrations of the Sunday Gospel reflections narrated by Fr Sean and spiritual direction by Sr Hilda.

    We have intentionally kept the bulk-pricing cost as low as possible to encourage parishes, schools and communities to buy the book on
    behalf of their communities.

    TRUST: Lenten Program 2019 Books

    Qty Catholic GST Free Group 
    Price $AU (+ post)
    Retail (inc GST) 
    Price $AU (+ post)
    1-9 $9.00 $9.90
    10-24 $8.00 $8.80
    25-49 $7.00 $7.70
    50-99 $6.00 $6.60
    100+ $5.00 $5.50

    TRUST: Lenten Program 2019 Triple CD Resource

    Qty Catholic GST Free Group 
    Price $AU (+ post)
    Retail (inc GST) 
    Price $AU (+ post)
    1+ Physical Triple CD $8.00 $8.80

    TRUST: Lenten Program 2019 Book + Triple CD Resource Set

    Qty Catholic GST Free Group 
    Price $AU (+ post)
    Retail (inc GST) 
    Price $AU (+ post)
    Book + Physical Triple CD $14.00 $15.40




    If you have any questions, or if you would like to place a phone or email order, please contact us on (02) 4222 2400 or email us at orders [AT] dow [DOT] org [DOT] au.

    Delivery of the books will commence late January 2019.

    Please note, if you live in the Diocese of Wollongong, please check with your parish, school, agency or religious order before ordering as they may be ordering copies on your behalf.

  • Christmas Mass and Reconciliation Times 2018
  • Message from Bishop Brian Mascord on the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Abuse


    My Sisters and Brothers in Christ

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison will deliver a National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, this coming Monday, 22 October 2018. The National Apology, to be delivered at Parliament House in Canberra, will acknowledge the appalling abuse perpetrated on vulnerable children by the very people who were supposed to care for them, including members of our Church. 

    At a recent diocesan conference on Creating a Safe Church from Within, Mr John Crowley—headmaster at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat—gave a heartfelt reflection. He addressed the importance of us, as the Church, openly and honestly acknowledging the hurt that has been caused. John said, “This acknowledgement must, above all else, avoid the use of the word, ‘but’. Why? Because a genuine acknowledgement opens and prepares our hearts to truly hear the voices of those victims and survivors deeply wounded by our Church. Most profoundly, without it there can be no trust. Without trust, how can hope exist?”

    It is true that words can be hopelessly inadequate if not accompanied by effective action. Our faith assures us that if our actions are grounded in an openness to God’s grace, they can produce the fruit that we and the whole of society so desperately want to see.
    So, as we join together as a nation to say sorry, I invite you, as followers of Christ, topray with me this prayer of healing and hope.


    Loving God

    We pray for our brothers and sisters
    who have been abused within our Church.
    We acknowledge their unending strength:
    their boldness has been an immense gift.
    We pray they find justice, peace and healing.

    We pray for our community:
    that we accept and nurture each other
    during this time.

    Empower us to be a positive
    and supportive force within society.
    Help us to witness the love of God for all.

    Help us to acknowledge and
    make amends for past wrongs.
    Give us the strength to be true advocates
    for the wronged and vulnerable.

    May the grace of God
    guide us now and always.
    We offer this prayer
    through Jesus Christ, our Lord.


    Yours in Christ


    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    Bishop of Wollongong

    Download Pastoral Letter and Prayer of Healing and Hope

  • Saviour—Advent and Christmas Reflections 2018 | ORDER NOW


    We are delighted to announce that we are now taking orders for Saviour—Daily Advent and Christmas Reflections 2018 with bulk pricing for GST Free Catholic Religious Groups starting from only $3.00 per book.

    Advent is such a busy time of year and we so easily forget that—at its heart—it is meant to be a time of preparation, waiting and hope for the coming of Jesus into our world and lives.

    This year’s reflection book, Saviour, provides an opportunity for us to be still each day, listen to God and hear him declare to us as the angel declared to the shepherds: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

    Saviour is a 76 page pocket-size book containing short spiritually rich, yet accessible, daily reflections from the beginning of Advent (2 December 2018) through to the Baptism of the Lord (13 January 2019) primarily for personal use, but also appropriate for group use such as parish, Church agency, religious community and school staff/class prayer.

    Saviour also features beautiful religious artworks from the Masters such as Giotto, Lodi, Messina, Veronese, Zurbarán, Coypel and Bouguereau with enlightening “Artwork Spotlight” reflections written by Monsignor Graham Schmitzer.

    Many customers buy bulk copies of the book for family, friends and work colleagues as an alternative to Christmas cards and gifts. We have included a page in the book for you to write your gift message.




    We have also included special discounted prices for bulk orders as well as a GST Free option for Catholic Religious Groups (eg, Catholic parishes, schools and religious communities):


    Qty GST Free Catholic Group
    AU (+ post)
    Retail (inc GST)
    AU (+ post)
    1 - 24 $4.00 $4.40
    25 - 49 $3.50 $3.85
    50 + $3.00 $3.30

    If you have any questions, or if you would like to place a phone or email order, please contact us on (02) 4222 2400 or email us at orders [AT] dow [DOT] org [DOT] au




    Mrs Sheelagh Abela

    Mrs Sheelagh Abela is the secretary of the parish pastoral council at Ss Peter and Parish in Kiama, NSW in the Diocese of Wollongong. 


    Mr James Arblaster

    James grew up in Albion Park, NSW, as the eldest of three boys. After completing primary and secondary education at St Paul’s Catholic Parish Primary School and St Joseph’s Catholic High School, James felt the call to priesthood, but chose first to study law and international studies at the University of Wollongong.

    After graduating, he followed the call and was accepted as a student for the priesthood for the Diocese of Wollongong. James is currently in his fourth year at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Homebush NSW.


    Mr Ken Bryant

    Mr Ken Bryant currently is the head of Catholic Life, Education and Mission Services, Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong. He has a significant background in education, as both teacher and administrator, having served as principal in three parish primary schools in the Diocese of Wollongong. Ken is an active member of the Kiama Parish community and former chair of the Kiama Parish Pastoral Council. 


    Fr Sean Cullen

    Fr Sean Cullen is the parish priest of the Bowral and Mittagong parishes in the Southern Highlands, NSW. He was ordained in 1984 and has served in a number of parishes in the Diocese of Wollongong.

    Over the years he has undertaken various diocesan roles including vocations director, master of ceremonies, chair of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission and member of the Council of Priests.


    Fr Mark De Battista

    Fr Mark De Battista is the chaplain to the University of Wollongong, NSW. Born in 1970, his family migrated to Australia from Malta in 1978. He was raised in a strong Catholic family and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wollongong in 1995. From 2003–2007 he served in university ministry in the United States (Illinois and Colorado).

    From 2010–2016 he went to Rome for studies in sacred Scripture. He has served in several parishes in the Diocese of Wollongong.


    Mr Peter Gilmore

    Mr Peter Gilmore has a background in youth and young adult ministry and currently works as a coordinator of CCD and evangelisation for the Office of Renewal and Evangelisation, Diocese of Wollongong. He is currently completing studies in theology. Peter has for making Church teaching and biblical truth accessible to all.


    Fr Richard Green OSPPE

    Fr Richard Green OSPPE belongs to the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit, also known as the Pauline Fathers. He is also the parish priest of St Paul’s Catholic Parish in Moss Vale, NSW.


    Fr Antony Jukes OFM

    Fr Antony Jukes OFM was born and raised in Chingford, East London. He joined the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor (OFM) in 2002 and was ordained a priest in 2009. Having served in a parish, in a youth retreat centre and at a Franciscan Study Centre, he is now the Novice director in the new international novitiate community in Killarney, Ireland.


    Fr Ronan Kilgannon

    Fr Ronan Kilgannon spent most of his adult life as a member of the Franciscan Order in various ministries. In 1978 he assisted in the founding of a small community of Franciscan Hermits in Victoria. In 1986 he was granted permission to live as a solitary at Murrarundi in the Hunter Valley as caretaker of a small bee farm. He moved to Kangaroo Valley in 1988 and in 1991 transferred from the Franciscan Order to the Diocese of Wollongong to become a Canonical Hermit.

    He now lives a way of life adapted from the Rule of St Benedict and in the spirit of St Romuald of Camaldoli. He assists with pastoral work in the Nowra Parish and his life as a hermit includes offering the Holy Eucharist, chanting the Monastic Office six times a day, meditation, studies, writing, hospitality and work in his garden.


    Miss Trish McCarthy

    Miss Trish McCarthy is a coordinator of CCD and evangelisation for the Office of Renewal and Evangelisation, Diocese of Wollongong. She holds a Bachelor of Exercise Science, Graduate Diploma in Education and a Master of Theology. With a passion for living an integrated approach to faith and life, her work in delivering seminars, retreats and faith formation is directed toward seeing people fully alive—an expression of God’s love and freedom.


    Mr Matthew Ockinga

    Mr Matthew Ockinga is a third-year seminarian studying for the Diocese of Yakima (Washington State, USA) at Mundelein Seminary/ University of St Mary of the Lake in Illinois. Born in Utah and raised in Wenatchee, Washington, Matthew has written professionally for newspapers, newsletters, universities and websites since 2003. He also taught Latin for six years and has worked in Catholic radio.

    Currently he is co-editor of The Bridge, Mundelein Seminary’s university magazine. Ockinga’s anticipated ordination year is 2022.


    Sr Anastasia Reeves OP

    Sr Anastasia Reeves OP is Dominican Sister of St Cecilia originally from Kiama in NSW. She joined NET Ministries in 1998 after completing a degree in engineering, but hadn’t considered a call to religious life.

    Sr Reeves returned to the work force after NET but, feeling “unsettled”, left her job to work for the Church. While working for the Church, Sr Reeves felt a deep calling to religious life. In 2010, about 17 years after serving with NET, Sr Reeves left her job with Archbishop Mark Coleridge, then Archbishop of Canberra, for Nashville, Tennessee.

    She enjoys sharing her own life experience of following Christ in the ordinary circumstances of life.


    Fr Christopher G Sarkis

    Fr Christopher Sarkis is the parish priest at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish Rosemeadow, NSW. He was ordained in 1985 and has served in a number of parishes in the Diocese of Wollongong including Wollongong, Campbelltown and Rosemeadow.

    His recent diocesan appointments include member of the College of Consultors, Council of Priests, Diocesan Finance Council and Diocesan Property Committee.


    Monsignor Graham Schmitzer

    Mgr Graham Schmitzer is the parish priest at Immaculate Conception Parish Unanderra, NSW. He was ordained in 1969 and has served in the parishes of Campbelltown, Gwynneville, Unanderra, Wollongong, Albion Park, and Corrimal. He was also chancellor and secretary to Bishop William Murray for 13 years.

    He grew up in Port Macquarie and was educated by the Sisters of St Joseph of Lochinvar, completing his leaving certificate at Wauchope High School.

    For two years he worked for the Department of Attorney General and Justice before entering St Columba’s College, Springwood, in 1962.

    Fr Graham loves travelling and has visited many of the major art galleries in Europe.


    Sr Hilda Scott OSB

    Sr Hilda Scott OSB is the vocations director for the enclosed Benedictine Abbey at Jamberoo, NSW. She became known to wider Australia through the ABC TV documentary, The Abbey, in which five Australian women were invited to live a monastic life for 33 days and nights.

    Apart from her work as Vocations Director she also engages in spiritual direction, retreat giving, talks and formation work with the newer members of the community, not to mention the “nitty-gritty” everyday happenings of kitchen, garden and housekeeping, all within a life of prayer for the world.

    Prior to 1990, Sr Hilda was a member of a religious order where she taught at all

    levels, worked with youth and children and did pastoral work in parishes. Immediately before coming to Jamberoo she lived in a caravan park among the most disadvantaged in our society. She says, “Once I dealt with from the outside-in. Now I do it inside-out.”


    Fr Dan Serratore MGL

    Fr Dan Serratore MGL is the parish priest of St Benedict’s Catholic Parish in Burwood, Victoria. He grew up in Sydney and worked in the hotel industry for eight years. When the lure of God’s call became too strong to resist, he joined the Missionaries of God’s Love in 2008. Ordained as a priest in 2016, Fr Dan has a passion to raise up a young generation of leaders in the Church.


    Fr Stephen Varney

    Fr Stephen Varney was born in Katoomba NSW, the eldest of five children. An enthusiasm for practical work influenced his decision to leave school at a young age to become a carpenter and joiner until the age of twenty.

    He completed a Diploma of Structural Engineering and then completed a Bachelor of Civil Engineering with Honours in 2008. During his time at university, he felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to live a deeper Christian life. He entered the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney in 2009. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Wollongong in May 2015 and is currently the administrator of St Aloysius Catholic Parish in The Oaks, NSW.

    He is a keen rockclimber and mountaineer. He has a special interest in the proclamation of the Word and rhetoric, b his calling as a desire to serve people in their everyday lives.


    Miss Michelle Vass

    Ms Michelle Vass is the director of St Mary’s Towers Retreat Centre Douglas Park, NSW, a ministry of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Michelle leads the resident retreat team in presenting the retreat program and providing spiritual accompaniment.

    She has a Master of Arts in theological studies including further studies in the practice of spiritual accompaniment. Michelle has a background in the public service and Catholic education, and has a keen interest in the recovery and ways of contemplative living for Christian life.

  • Creating a Safe Church from Within: Summary Report


    Over Friday 31 August and Saturday 1 September 2018, approximately 600 people from the Dioceses of Parramatta and Wollongong, together with many members of religious congregations and several other dioceses, attended one of two forums regarding Creating a safe Church from within.

    The forums, with Fr Hans Zollner SJ as key note speaker, aimed to foster discussion and engagement amongst participants about the response of the Catholic Church to child sexual abuse, and more broadly to consider issues relating to the operation of power within the Catholic Church. The discussions particularly focused on responses to survivors and measures that could be taken to ensure child safety. The forums were facilitated by Ms Susan Pascoe AM.

    This report written by Kate Temby summarises the key presentations made on each day, and provides an outline of what participants identified as the key theoretical and practical changes necessary to make Catholic organisations child-safe. As well as drawing on the key note presentations, this report draws on the question and answer sessions following each presentation, the presentation of the results of table discussions, the posters created by each table and the feedback forms.

    This report has also been provided to the Implementation Advisory Group which has been established to monitor the response to the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; and to Catholic Professional Standards Limited.

    Click here to download the Creating a Safe Church from Within: Summary Report

    Click here to download the Friday Summary Poster

    Click here to download the Saturday Summary Poster

  • Caring for those, who have cared for us - Bishop’s Annual Appeal 2018


    To make your donation, click here and select “1259597 - Bishop’s Annual Appeal for Care of Retired Clergy” from the biller code dropdown list.

    My sisters and brothers in Christ

    It is the responsibility of our Diocese to support and care for the retirement and health of our clergy.

    Our retired clergy live on their own, or in assisted living facilities, or in nursing homes, and require some level of additional assistance to do so. Your donation to this appeal will help to provide suitable accommodation, transport assistance and holistic health care to them.

    Currently, there are 11 clergy in retirement. It is likely that we will have an additional nine clergy retiring over the next five years alone. The Diocese needs to urgently and significantly increase its resources to ensure that we can continue to care for our ageing clergy.

    Your donation will help ensure a dignified retirement for our diocesan clergy like Monsignor David O’Brien.


    Yours in Christ



    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    Bishop of Wollongong

  • Statement from Bishop Brian Mascord | Archbishop Philip Wilson

    I support Archbishop Philip Wilson in his decision to resign as the archbishop of Adelaide, especially when considering the ongoing pain and distress being caused—particularly to the victims of Fr James Fletcher—by his maintaining the office of archbishop of Adelaide.

    As a former priest of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, the grief is very close to home, and my heart goes out to those people who were abused by Fr Fletcher and to their families.

    As the bishop of Wollongong, I also acknowledge the sadness and confusion being experienced on the local level. I am aware that Archbishop Wilson has been praised for his stance and support for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse during his time as the bishop of Wollongong—as evidenced during the Royal Commission’s public hearing on the Diocese of Wollongong. In the context of his conviction and the unknown outcome of his upcoming appeals process, it is important to continue the good work of the Diocese whilst respecting and supporting the legal process which binds us together as a society.

    We must now renew our resolve to ensure that our ongoing policies and practices effectively address risk, recognise harm and take action for the prevention, reporting and response to abuse, while compassionately supporting victims and survivors—providing acknowledgement and just redress.

    I urge any person with a complaint of mistreatment or abuse to come forward to the police through the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or to contact the diocesan director of professional standards and safeguarding, Anna Tydd, on (02) 4222 2405. I also wish to offer support to anyone who is affected. If this applies to you, or someone that you know, please contact Anna so that arrangements can be made for the appropriate support.

    As we continue to strive to become the Church we should be, we entrust ourselves to the care of our loving God, whom we seek to imitate in our words and actions.


    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    31 July 2018

  • Plenary Council 2020: Listen to what the Spirit is saying | Bishop Brian Mascord's Pastoral Letter


    My Sisters and Brothers in Christ

    Many of you have heard that Plenary 2020 is coming. So what does that mean? Plenary Council 2020 presents for us, as Catholics, the opportunity to ask a very simple question —What is the Holy Spirit asking us today? Many would quite rightly describe this time as one of upheaval and uncertainty. As people of faith, we trust even in the midst of such change that the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work moving and doing new things in the hearts and minds of the faithful.

    Pentecost Sunday this year (20 May 2018) marked the official launch of Plenary Council 2020. Catholics throughout Australia—including many in our own Diocese of Wollongong—noted and proclaimed the apostolic blessing that the Australian Church received from Pope Francis and utilised the resources provided to ensure that this special day, of the coming of the Holy Spirit, provided a unique opportunity to call on the gifts of the Spirit during the plenary process. In many ways, it is an opportunity for us to listen deeply to our own hearts and the hearts of others in expressing what we love about who we are as the Church, as well as identifying and naming our shortcomings and disappointments, and expressing in concrete ways our hopes for the future. I am confident this process will lead us to discern the sensus fidelium (sense of faith) of all our communities who listen humbly and speak boldly on the matters important to the Church in Australia at this time.

    Whilst many people in our Diocese are very eager to take up the opportunity to contribute to Plenary Council 2020, there are still many others who remain unaware that the Australian Church is now in “plenary” mode and the process of praying, listening, talking, discerning and contributing thoughts in a considered way has already commenced. Therefore, the purpose of this communication is to ensure that you are made aware of the significance of the plenary council and to provide you with initial details of how we, as the Church in the Diocese of Wollongong, can participate and contribute wisely, sensitively and authentically to Plenary Council 2020.

    It is my hope that many parishes will have already utilised the resources forwarded to you that have been developed by the national Plenary Council Executive Committee, especially the resources associated with the launch on Pentecost Sunday. If not, that is easily overcome, as the resources remain a pertinent way to enable local communities to prayerfully focus on what the Spirit is saying.

    Pope Francis in his message to the Australian Church on the inauguration of Plenary Council 2020 expressed: “It is my hope that through patient dialogue and faith-filled discernment, the conciliar journey will confirm the Catholics in Australia in a spirit of fraternal unity and missionary discipleship, thus enabling them to be a leaven of holiness, justice and reconciliation in today’s rapidly changing society”. (Pope Francis, Apostolic Blessing, May 2018)

    Plenary Council 2020 will be only the fifth plenary council in Australia’s history, the first since 1937, and the first to feature women and lay people. Described as a three-year journey of listening to God by listening to one another, Plenary Council 2020 will be the highest possible formal gathering of the Church in Australia and, unlike a synod, it has the power to make changes to its legislation and governance in Australia. Cultural reform of the Church is likely to feature prominently.

    Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth—endorsed by Pope Francis as the president of Plenary Council 2020—hopes that the plenary council will bring about a period of authentic renewal: “I encourage all Catholics, whether devout or disillusioned, fervent or frustrated, to seize this opportunity to speak what is on their minds and in their hearts.”

    As individuals, parish communities and regions in the Diocese of Wollongong, there are some simple things you can, and should, be doing in this initial phase of prayer and listening. One of the best places to start is the Plenary Council 2020 website,, which provides great resources that will assist us as the Church to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to understand the purpose and processes of the plenary council, to provide forums for discussion and feedback, and to provide updates as we journey toward the plenary council gatherings in 2020 and 2021.

    For us in the Diocese, the remainder of 2018 and early 2019 will be a period for initial listening followed by a period of discerning and feedback in 2019, ready for a year of proposing in 2020 as we move to attending and contributing to the plenary council meetings. In 2021, after the plenary council meetings, the Church in Australia will commence implementing changes arising from the council.

    Much has already happened behind the scenes in the Diocese to prepare in earnest for our participation in Plenary Council 2020. Our recent Journey magazine provided a summative introduction on the plenary council. Clergy have been briefed at their recent mid-year clergy conference in detail about the plenary council. Numerous key diocesan leaders from the Office of the Bishop have already attended information sessions and have been briefed on how to assist parishes and communities to utilise the resources and ensure an authentic process of listening. Appropriate resources are being allocated to ensure our ear is attuned constantly to the Holy Spirit and that opportunities are provided for listening, collating and communicating the thoughts of many.

    We will launch our diocesan process at a Vigil Mass at St John Vianney Co-Cathedral in Fairy Meadow at 6pm on Saturday 18 August 2018. The Vigil will also include a commissioning of Local Animators nominated by faith communities and the distribution of plenary kits including Plenary Council 2020 candles, books for recording plenary reflections, and various other items to assist in the process of listening to and recording dialogue at a local level.

    I have included in this correspondence a supporting document to explain the important role Local Animators will play in this process in the Diocese of Wollongong in Parishes, Schools and CatholicCare and other faith communities. Further, this document provides information to assist these communities in the discernment and selection process of one individual in your community setting who might serve in the role of communicating Plenary Council 2020—enabling respectful listening and promoting various types of submissions and appropriate recording of feedback. (Details of options for training processes for Local Animators are detailed in this document)

    Coinciding with your own small group listening processes in your parish, we are holding four regional listening sessions. These will be held on Sunday afternoons from 12pm–4pm, enabling us to enter into a process of deep listening and discernment. More concrete details will be made in due course, but, I would ask that you note the following regional dates in order to be able to attend:

    11 November 2018—Illawarra

    18 November 2018—Southern Highlands

    17 February 2019—Shoalhaven

    24 February 2019—Macarthur

    Plenary Council 2020 is a cause for great excitement and one that we must enter into full of trust in God’s guiding hand. We have much to plan and organise along this journey, and that will happen in an ongoing way in the weeks and months ahead. It is important to note though: no matter how well we plan, this process will be “messy” at times, and necessarily so, because it deals with both the human and the divine. It will thus require patience and humility if we are to be led by the Spirit in honest and respectful dialogue. It requires us to sincerely pray with, and for, each other as we open ourselves to this process of expressing our loves, disappointments, hurts and hopes for who we are as Church. Together, let’s see what the Holy Spirit is saying to us.

    Yours in Christ

    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    Bishop of Wollongong
    26 July 2018

    Download Bishop Brian's pastoral letter

    Download Support Kit