A National Liturgy & Music Conference celebrating sixty years since Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, presented jointly by the Australian Pastoral Musicians Network (APMN) & the National Liturgical Council (NLC) of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference.


The Mystery & Mission National Conference features four Keynotes presented by internationally acclaimed composers and liturgists.

Professor Timothy P. O'Malley

Professor Timothy P. O’Malley Ph.D. is academic director of the Notre Dame Centre for Liturgy and director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life. He teaches and researches at the University of Notre Dame in liturgical-sacramental theology and is the author of ten books including works on liturgical formation and the doctrine of real presence. Prof O’Malley speaks at conferences and events throughout the USA and Europe and is a consultant to various committees of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Please Note UPDATE: We would like to provide you with an update on some speaker changes in the conference program.

Professor Timothy O’Malley will now present his Thursday morning keynote remotely. Unfortunately, he is unable to join us in person due to a recent medical diagnosis and consequential treatment plan for one of his children. Tim hopes to be able to provide some post-conference method for delegate interaction via email  or other platform. He will also record his planned Plenary Workshop and Mega-Workshop sessions which will be made available to delegates after the conference. Please keep Tim and his family in your prayers as they face a challenging journey ahead.

We have been incredibly fortunate to secure two outstanding experts to present the Plenary Workshop & Mega-Workshop sessions for which Timothy was scheduled.

Dr Jason McFarland will present the Friday afternoon Plenary Workshop, Crafting Tradition: Envisioning Processes of Liturgical Change that Work. Earning his MA and PhD from The University of America, Jason lectures in Liturgical Studies and Sacramental Theology at ACU and has recently been appointed Executive Secretary for Liturgy for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

Cathy Murrowood’s Saturday morning Mega-Workshop option will address the vital topic ofHospitality and the Mystery of God's Presence Among Us. A teacher and musician, Cathy studied liturgy at the University of Notre Dame USA. She is a liturgy educator with the ACU Centre for Liturgy and a liturgy consultant. Cathy serves on the ACBC’s National Liturgical Council and is a past member of the Music Council.

Crafting Tradition: Envisioning Processes of Liturgical Change that Work
Nearly 60 years have passed since the Second Vatican Council and its Constitution on the Liturgy. Catholics now worship around the globe in their vernaculars with renewed rites. How these rites are best shaped through the process of liturgical reform, however, remains an open question. Recent legal and procedural changes by the Holy See, as well as the decrees of the Plenary Council, suggest that sixty years on, the reception of the Conciliar liturgical renewal has only just begun. This keynote looks at the multifaceted modes of engaging with liturgical tradition from the perspective of liturgical renewal—the aim of which, from a post-Conciliar perspective, is to craft worship that brings the ancient message of salvation into the present day.

Hospitality and the Mystery of God's Presence Among Us.
Hospitality, whether linked to commercial interests or social wellbeing, is an important part of building new and valued relationships. Christian hospitality offers us a much deeper perspective. Christ invites us to his table, into the mystery of his presence.  For every baptised person, loving service in Christ’s name begins with a spirit of hospitality. Discipleship is modelled on Christ, who is both our host and guest. This session will look at how hospitality is expressed in the way we encounter Christ and each other in the liturgy.  Using the ‘lens’ of hospitality, a broad range of liturgical ministries will be explored. 

Sarah Hart

Sarah Hart is one of the leading figures in contemporary Catholic music today, her songs of faith having touched the lives of thousands. Originally from Lancaster, Ohio, she holds a degree in music from The Ohio State University. Now based in Nashville, Tennessee she spends much of her time on the road — juggling a busy songwriting, recording, concert and event schedule. She is also an avid writer, having published multiple retreat books, along with a musical based on the life of Saint Bernadette. A Grammy-nominated and Mark Award winning songwriter, Sarah’s songs have been recorded by numerous recording artists, and her compositions are found in hymnals across the globe.

Rev Dr Tom Elich

Ordained presbyter for the Archdiocese of Brisbane in 1974, Tom Elich earned a Doctorate of Theology in Paris, specialising in medieval liturgy and sacraments. Since then, he has been director of Liturgy Brisbane. For a decade, he was national secretary for liturgy with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. In the 1990s, he took part in the work of ICEL, and then taught liturgy at the Brisbane College of Theology and at ACU. He is a long-time member (and has held office) in the international Societas Liturgica, the Australian Academy of Liturgy, and the National Liturgical Architecture and Art Council. He recently finished almost fifteen years as parish priest at Bulimba in Brisbane.

Please note UPDATE:

After Fr Stephen Hackett recently became unavailable when elected provincial of his order, Rev Dr Tom Elich has generously agreed to present the liturgical architecture workshop C-4. Fr Tom is an expert in the field having chaired the ACBC’s National Liturgical Architecture and Art Council until recently.

And finally, to present the Preaching is Bridge-Building workshop (D-1), we welcome Fr Wrex Woolnough, priest of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. After ordination, he studied at Oxford University (UK) and returned to lecture at Banyo Seminary, Qld and ACU. A renowned homilist, Wrex has presented many formation sessions for clergy and seminarians in Qld and beyond.

Assoc. Professor Maeve Louise Heaney VDMF

Associate Professor Maeve Louise Heaney VDMF, a consecrated member of the Verbum Dei Community, is Xavier Chair for Theological Formation at Australian Catholic University (ACU). She specializes and researches into the areas of theological aesthetics, music and spirituality, as well as lecturing in Systematic Theology at ACU and at Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary, QLD. Dr Heaney has extensive experience in the area of ministry and theological formation. A theologian, musician and composer, she has lived in Spain, England, Ireland, Italy, the United States of America, and Australia, leading schools of evangelisation, spiritual exercises and teaching theology. She is President of the Australian Catholic Theological Association (ACTA). Publications include Music as Theology: What Music Says about the Word, Princeton Theological Monograph Series (2012), and "From the Particular to the Universal: Musings of a Woman Theologian" in Catholic Women Speak Network (ed.) Shared Visions: Women Responding to God's Call (Mahweh, NJ: Paulist Press, July 2018). In 2020 she released her 5th CD: Strange Life: The Music of Doubtful Faith, and in 2022 her book Suspended God: Music and a Theology of Doubt.

Keynote Presentations and Workshops

Liturgical Living in a (sort of) Secular Age
Thursday 28 September 9:00 - 10:00 am

This keynote address will focus on the mission of the baptized faithful to live a liturgical life in a “sort of” secular age. The keynote will first attend to the difficulties of liturgical prayer in late modern life. Late modernity is not an age devoid of transcendence—as secularity is often understood—but a period defined by a crisis related to memory, authority, and festivity. Ironically, Catholic liturgy provides an answer to this crisis. Liturgy forms us to remember aright, to see ecclesial authority as linked to communion, and provides healing for those of us caught in the burnout culture of the workaday world. Liturgical living in this (sort of) secular age invites us to a vision of human flourishing grounded in Christian worship.

Liturgical Formation for the Fullness of Life
Friday 29 September 3:15 - 4:15 pm

In his prescient letter to the German bishops, Romano Guardini addressed the next stage of liturgical renewal. Simply, it was not enough to explain the meaning of rites or to reform the liturgy. Rather, the task was to initiate men and women into a liturgical form of life. But what does this look like? In this workshop, I propose a method for liturgical formation grounded in the act of beholding, wondering, and desiring. This approach to liturgical formation — inspired by Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Desidero desideravi — will enable ministers to form the baptized faithful to see their entire lives as a liturgical offering to the triune God.

The Liturgy of the Hours as School of Prayer in Late Modernity
Saturday 30 September 9:45 - 10:45 am

Sociologists often describe our age as late or liquid modernity. It is characterized by an almost obsessive interest in speed, progress, and technological development. This addiction to speed may hinder us from developing the contemplative dispositions necessary for a happy, Christian life. In this presentation, we will look at how both communal (either within the parish or family) or even individual celebrations of the Liturgy of the Hours can function as a school of prayer, answering the deepest desires of the human person for contemplation in liquid modernity.

Love As Never Before: Radical Love and Inclusion for the Church
Thursday 28 September 3:15 - 4:15 pm

We all know the phrase “spiritual not religious”. We express our worry and concern for a generation of young people, as well as adults, who do not feel at home in the church. Embracing others and the spiritual journey they are on is vital, and to radically love them in spite of our differences – as Jesus did - is the call. How do we love fearlessly, with a spirit of love preceding us, in this world of chaos? Sarah Hart, a mother of two “spiritual not religious” young adults will address this important topic through stories, song, humour and deep honesty in this keynote. What can we learn from others and their approaches to faith? How can we serve, understand, include and embrace all people? How do we as a mission people love as never before?

Sarah Hart in Concert
Thursday 28 September 7:45 - 9:15 pm

Performing highlights of Sarah's liturgical music composition repertoire.

Singing the Mystery: The Importance of Musical Expression in Liturgy for the Body of Christ
Saturday 30 September 9:45 - 10:45 am

Music is more than just “something we do at liturgy”. Rather, music is a miracle, the very heart of God, an expression of the freely creative nature of the Lord. Music expresses not just our love of God, but also our cultures, our morals, and our diversity. So why are so many afraid of making too much of music in the liturgy? How can we encourage the Church to understand music not as an afterthought, but as a crucially integral part of liturgy and Church, one that has the power to draw hearts closer to God in worship? For over 30 years, Sarah Hart has travelled the globe, carrying the joy and freedom of all forms of musical expression to parishes. In this workshop, she will share her experiences of the ways the Church and her people respond to music, and why music is more important than ever. Come prepared to sing, sing, and sing some more!

Opening the Windows of the Church: Liturgy Sixty Years after Sacrosanctum Concilium
Friday 29 September 8:45 - 9:45 am

The liturgy document of Vatican Council II did not give us a blueprint for the liturgical reform. It opened windows and pointed us in directions we might explore. The last six decades have been years of learning, making mistakes, discovering new possibilities. The adventure is exciting and it continues, as new generations recognise the sacred in new situations. People have changed. Society has changed. The issues that confront us have changed. Yet in the gathering of the Church in faith, in the proclamation of the word, and in our engagement with sacramental symbols, we discover the mystery of Christ who is with us. And we are sent to continue the journey of discovery and enrichment.

Preaching Is Bridge Building
Friday 29 September Breakout D-1 1:30 - 2:30 pm

What does the preacher do? Yes, preaching begins with an insight into the mystery revealed in the Scriptures. But it also needs to address the particular people who have gathered for the liturgy with their day-to-day experiences and concerns. The homily is meant to build a bridge between them, so that the Scriptures can help shape people’s minds and actions. In this workshop, we will reflect on how this might be done. How does the preacher prepare? How does the preacher speak?

Not One Without the Other: When Mission and Mystery are Dialogue Partners
Saturday 30 September 8:45 - 9:45 am

The Church exists to evangelise (Evangelii nuntiandi 14), and the expression of that reality needs to affect every aspect of its life and structure. Such is the “missionary option” Pope Francis dreams of, in which “the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation” (cf. Evangeli Gaudium 27). This must surely include our liturgical celebrations. But what does a missionary liturgy look and feel like? How do we hold together the gradual process of liturgical mystagogy in which Christians are immersed in the mysteries of our faith, with the flexibility and attentiveness essential to reaching out to the world we are sent to? Through words and music, this keynote will suggest that mission and mystery (the contemplative dimensions of our faith) are necessary dialogue partners in every liturgical space we create. Born of and in the dialogue our loving God seeks to have with all creation, one simply does not work without the other.