From the Office

New Diocesan Women’s groups are getting on their feet in Toowoomba and Brisbane. Perth is steaming ahead with some terrific events held this year and planned for the future. Canberra and Goulburn worked on a long consultation process and have now established a Coordinating Team who are keen to respond to local needs. Maitland-Newcastle remains the outstanding example for us all with a long history and broad involvement in the life of the Diocese.

We have a few things to celebrate in this issue.

Leadership for Mission has been selected by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life as an example of good practice for lay formation and will be featured at the Dicastery’s first Plenary Assembly in November and on a website dedicated to promoting model programs from episcopal conferences, dioceses and private institutions worldwide. See the recent article in this newsletter.

As you know, a Plenary Council is underway in the Australian Catholic Church. National Themes for Discernment have been drawn from the submission and call us toward the future.

Women participated enthusiastically in the First Stage of the process and presented the majority of individual submissions.

I hope you have had a restful, blessed and safe Easter!

There has been some metaphorical dying and rising going on right on my doorstep. Is it true for you too?

The Leadership for Mission program is going well! See the media release below concerning the most recent residential session. Further good news for this program is that Sr Ruth Durick will take up the coordination role in June.

Stirring the waters was the theme for the recent successful Colloquium. As I reflect on the current situation of our Church, both locally and internationally, there seems to be an enormous ‘stirring of the waters’ taking place. This is unsettling and even distressing. As we endure these challenges and support others who are troubled let us hold onto the Gospel hope that God will once again bring life out of unpromising situations.

Perhaps you have seen reports from the Youth Synod (XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment) currently being held in Rome. Three Australian bishops are present, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney, Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, Bishop Mark Edwards of Melbourne and one youth representative, Sebastian Duhau from the Parramatta Diocese. In total there are 339 participants in the Synod on Youth, including 34 young people aged 18 to 29 from every continent of the world. There are 267 Synod Fathers—including cardinals, archbishops, bishops and auxiliary bishops—as well as 23 experts and 49 auditors.

As I write this, I’m aware that this week the Australian Catholic Bishops and Catholic Religious Australia will release a statement in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Last week the Pope addressed a letter to the People of God on the same topic. Bishops in Chile have resigned, as has an American Cardinal.

What a time we are in! Research conducted in 2016 in Australia showed that the confidence of Churchgoers in Church authorities has been damaged by the cases of sex abuse by priests and religious. More than one-third of Churchgoers stated that their respect for priests and religious declined as a result of these offences. Nearly two thirds of Churchgoers stated that the response of Church authorities to incidents of child sexual abuse had been inadequate and showed a complete failure of responsibility.

Following the recent meeting of the Council for Australian Catholic Women on 22 June, a consultation with women at Parramatta on 21 June and the upcoming feast of Mary Magdalene, this issue of Women Matter is full of energy! You will find several articles about challenge and change.

You will also notice that we are claiming the date for our next Colloquium in Adelaide 22-24 February. The Colloquium is much earlier in the year than usual in order to contribute to the ‘listening’ stage of the Plenary 2020.

Do you know about it? Women in Maitland-Newcastle Diocese know it. They’ve even name an award for her.

I mean of course, the restoration of St Mary Magdalene. Since about thirteenth century in the tradition of the Western Christianity, Mary of Magdala has been misidentified as a sinner and a prostitute.

In fact, Scripture names her as a prime witness to the crucifixion and resurrection.

Last week I had the privilege of speaking (via Skype) with Marta Rodriguez Diaz from the Office for Women within the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life at the Vatican. She was impressed with what is happening through OPW and the CACW!

After all we have sixteen women aged between 25 and 35 who have commenced the two-year program Leadership for Mission. This program replaces the Young Catholic Women’s Fellowship and is conducted in partnership with Australian Catholic University and Catholic Mission. The first residential session will be held in the week after Easter. Rachelle Smith from Hobart is the new coordinator of the program.