Diocese rep a voice for parishioners

When Bernadette Gibson discovered she had been chosen as a Plenary Council delegate, she felt “simultaneously excited and a bit overwhelmed”.

Only 267 delegates throughout Australia have been called to attend the Plenary Council sessions.

Ms Gibson will be representing the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, along with Helen Belcher, Bishop Bill and Fr Andrew Doohan.

A Plenary Council is the highest formal gathering of all local churches in a country. Plenary Council 2020 is being held to dialogue about the future of the Catholic Church in Australia. Contemporary society in Australia has changed significantly and the Plenary Council will give the Catholic community in Australia time to listen, dialogue and discern with one another and be guided by the Holy Spirit, about the future, the role and relevance of the Catholic Church in Australia.

“I have this great sense of responsibility that I am just representing every average parishioner and trying to make sure that their voice is there,” Ms Gibson said.

Ms Gibson was nominated as a delegate by Fr Greg Barker and felt “taken aback” by the trust in her that the nomination showed.

“Since the nomination I had just been doing a lot of praying and just saying, if the Holy Spirit wants me there, then I'll be open to that,” Ms Gibson said.

When the announcement was made, Ms Gibson put the phone down and said to her husband Ross “this is a really important moment in my life”. She feels very privileged to be part of such a significant moment in the Australian Catholic Church.

Due to COVID-19, the exact timing of the first session of the Plenary Council is yet to be determined, but in the meantime, Ms Gibson is praying for the church and others are praying for her in preparation.

“I keep saying I feel very humble but I really do, plus I feel a great sense of responsibility,” she said.

When the time comes, Ms Gibson said “all I can do is just go and pray that whatever the Holy Spirit wants of me, and wants of Australia is something that I can see, hear, witness and participate in”.

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Brooke Robinson Image
Brooke Robinson

Brooke is Content Officer for the Communications Team in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle