Challenge to Church-Run Health and Elderly Services: Be “Christ-Centered”

The PRESIDENT of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe, challenged leaders in Catholic health and aged care services to use the example of the Plenary Council as a way “ centered on Christ” to function in the future.

Decision-making in the Plenary Council was based on “synodality,” which is often defined as “walking together as the People of God.”

“…we should make our decisions not just as a corporate body, or something like that, but also as a group of disciples,” Archbishop Costelloe told delegates at the Catholic Health Australia 2022 National Conference, held in Brisbane.

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) is Australia’s largest non-governmental health and aged care services grouping and accounts for around 10% of hospital healthcare in Australia. Members provide approximately 25% of private hospital care, 5% of public hospital care, 12% of aged care facilities and 20% of home care and support for the elderly.

Bishop Costelloe said it was fundamental that decisions were made that were “Christ centered”, conceding that this was “not the normal way of making decisions that most of us experience in many other contexts”.

He said the second assembly of the Plenary Council completed six weeks ago had demonstrated “the complexity, the challenge and the treasure of synodality”.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe delivered the keynote address at the recent second meeting of the Plenary Council. Photo: Mark Bowling

“This call to synodality, to deep thoughtful listening, should be how we all try to discern how we are meant to move forward,” Bishop Costelloe said.

“As a community of followers of Christ, I would say that we are still at the very beginning of this journey.

“One of my hopes is that we will always have more to learn on this journey of discernment.

“For that to happen, I think we’re all going to have to think deeply about our own situations.”

Building on this, Bishop Costelloe explained the challenge facing ACH delegates.

“The greatest challenge facing Catholic Health Australia today is bringing Catholic Health Australia back to Christ and bringing Christ back to Catholic Health Australia,” he said.

“I’m not saying this to be critical in any way. I just think he beautifully captures something that is absolutely essential for all of us.

“If the Church is not that [Christ-centred]not just in theory, but in day-to-day practice, I think we run the risk of going astray.

He said it was easy to get caught up in the routine challenges of responding to government regulations, the demands of people in our hospitals “and everything else”, that “we are losing the fundamental foundation on which everything we try to rest”.

Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe addressing CHA delegates in Brisbane. Photo Mark Bowling

“Reading the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel is yet another challenge,” Bishop Costelloe said.

Use of the Latin phrase Norma Normans No Normatahe says reminds us that the word of God comes first, not ours or our culture.

“Scripture is the standard against which everything else must be measured,” Bishop Costelloe said.

“It doesn’t go the other way. We do not evaluate entries or select them.

“Based on this, we look at the signs of the times and begin to discern what we might be called to because of them in the Gospel.”

Jerry B. Hatch