Catalyst for Renewal

Seeking renewal through conversation

We are believers who are attempting to establish a forum for conversation within the Catholic Church of Australia. Our aim is to prompt open exchanges among the community of believers, mindful of the diversity of expressions of faith in contemporary Australia. This springs explicitly from the spirit of Pope John XXIII and Vatican II: “Let there be unity in what is necessary, freedom in what is unsettled, and charity in any case.” (Gaudium et Spes, n.92)

We are constantly aware of the emphasis placed by Pope Francis on the importance of dialogue and conversation with others - not only with members of our own faith tradition but with those who are ‘church shy’; or see themselves on the fringe of conventional religious experience; with those from other Christian churches and other faith traditions; with those of no particular religious affiliations at all; with some who do not believe in God… We firmly believe that we have much to learn from each other.

Vale Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson passed away on 29 December 2020 after a long illness.

Born in 1937, Geoff was ordained in Sydney in 1960. He studied philosophy, theology and canon law in Australia and in Rome. In 1987 he was consecrated as auxiliary bishop of Sydney, retiring due to ill health in 2004.

Geoff worked extensively in the area of professional standards in ministry. He was very critical of the church’s response to the scandal of clerical sexual abuse. He lead the development and implementation of the Towards Healing protocol which changed the focus from avoidance of scandal and protection of reputation towards hearing and responding to the needs of victims. His 2007 book, ‘Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: reclaiming the spirit of Jesus’ remains relevant and compelling today. It has been said that Geoff provided a bright light during a very dark period for the church.

Bishop Robinson was a patron of Catalyst for Renewal and a frequent speaker at our forums, dinners and reflection mornings. We note his passing with great sadness and with joy and gratitude for his immense contribution to our church.

A few days prior to Bishop Geoffrey's death, Michael Whelan wrote to him in a letter that we reproduce here with permission.

Christmas Eve 2020

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson
Dear Geoff,

Thank you for the leadership you have given through your courageous and intelligent responses over many years. Your instincts, it seems to me, have been governed by Jesus’ words, “The Sabbath is made for people not people for the Sabbath”.

This has been especially the case as you led the way in facing up to the horrors of sexual abuse in the Church. I know that cost you dearly. But your statement to me one day symbolizes your own attitude and actions: “I will never defend the indefensible”. I frequently call those words to mind and with them, yourself.

Thomas Merton, in his inimitable way, used a phrase to describe a fundamental option we face today: “Survival or prophecy?” You have been on the side of prophecy.

You told me once that your desire, many years ago in Rome, was to pursue postgraduate studies in Sacred Scripture. However, when asked by your bishop, with typical humility you agreed to study Canon Law. But you have always been a deeply biblical person Geoff. You came to a remarkable appreciation of the Sacred Scriptures, not through the classroom but through life. You were able to transcend the system because of that. Your world was much bigger than the institution you in fact served so faithfully.

You have been an example and inspiration for me personally Geoff. I shall always remember you with affection.
Until we meet again.

Michael Whelan SM

Information about Catalyst Events

Announcement Regarding the Covid-19 Pandemic - Updated November 2020

Our 2020 program is now concluded. Our face to face program was suspended in March, except that we were able to provide several Reflection Mornings at Lawson late in the year. Excitingly, we were able to offer a short series of online events in the second half of the year. Following the format of Spirituality in the Pub, these were conducted as video conferences under the banner of Spirituality on the Sofa. We were thrilled with the warm response this initiative received and we are planning to provide more of these next year, in parallel with our face to face program.

We continue to monitor public health advice. We have planned to resume our Reflection Mornings and our SIP Program, at some venues at least, from early March next year. A dinner at Hunters Hill is also planned for March. These events will proceed with Covid-Safe plans in place.  We will continue to act in accordance with current health advice, choosing to err on the side of keeping our supporters and the community safe.

Final decisions about March and April events will be made early in 2021 after which, assuming that we can proceed (as we are at this time - Nov 2020) we will provide full details to our mailing lists and on this website. Please watch for further information.

If you have questions in the meantime, please email

Catalyst Forum with Sister Joan Chittister OSB

Sister Joan was scheduled to speak at Monte Sant Angelo College, North Sydney on the evening of Tuesday 15 September 2020. This event had to be postponed.

Sister Joan has informed us that she remains committed and keen to travel to Australia as soon as possible. Obviously, with our borders remaining closed for the foreseeable future, we cannot reschedule the event at this time. We will schedule the forum, in consultation with Sister Joan, when government health orders are such that we can plan with certainty. We again apologise for being unable to proceed with the forum on the originally scheduled date.

Ticket holders for the Sr Joan forum are offered two alternatives:

  • you can request a refund of your purchase by sending an email to ; refund requests will be processed within 14 days of receipt, to the credit card used to purchase the tickets.
  • otherwise, your tickets will remain valid for the rescheduled event, when that is determined. (In this case, there is no need to contact us - we will keep you informed of further changes.)

If you select the second option, we'll be sure to inform you of the revised arrangements and your ticket price will be protected against any increase that may apply (due, for example, to increased travel costs for Sr Joan or if our preferred venue is not available for the alternative date). You may of course still request a refund at any later time.

Robert Fitzgerald AM

Our Catalyst Dinner scheduled for Friday 30 October 2020 was also cancelled.   Robert has agreed to speak at our Dinner scheduled for 19 March 2021.   This will of course be subject to public health orders applicable at the time. We will decide in early January whether we are able to proceed with the dinner.

Catalyst and Aquinas Academy Reflection Mornings

Reflection Mornings at Lawson in the Blue Mountains and at Hunters Hill are expected to resume in March 2021.

Please continue to monitor this site for information about our 2021 program.

Thank you for your ongoing support of Catalyst for Renewal through this most difficult of years. We wish you peace and joy through the season of Advent and for Christmas. We so look forward to seeing you at our events in 2021. Stay safe!