ONE of the biggest lessons the Church has faced in recent years, a lesson accelerated by the Royal Commission into child abuse, was the need for greater representation of women in Church leadership.
The Church has embraced this opportunity, organising events focused on building women’s leadership and opening the way for success.
One such event is a panel forum at the Australian Catholic University Leadership Centre in Brisbane on Wednesday, December 12.
Panel members will include ACU Associate Vice-Chancellor (Queensland) Professor Jim Nyland and Xavier Centre for Theological Formation director Sr Maeve Heaney.
Sr Heaney said it was an opportune time to talk about women’s leadership in the Church from a theological perspective.
“Pope Francis has asked the global theological community to reflect upon ways in which the inclusion of women in the decision-making of the Church can be advanced,” she said.
“We plan to explore specific ways in which this evening can open up pathways that help support women in leadership roles in the Church, and that can be implemented as part of the Plenary Council 2020 process.”
The panel will celebrate the launch of the second Catholic Women Speak book entitled Visions and Vocations.
The forum will also explore how the formation of women for leadership roles in the Church can be supported.
Catholic Women Speak is a forum for Catholic women who seek to bring women’s voices into dialogue with others in the Church, as well as the wider community.
ACU said the meeting “will provide a space for a theologically informed conversation about women in leadership in ecclesial communities and organisations”.
Another upcoming event is the triennial Council for Australian Catholic Women Colloquium.
Registration is now open for the colloquium, with the themes of the conference being drawn from the Plenary Council 2020 process.
The Stirring the Waters: Catholic Women Responding to the Spirit event, from February 22 to 24, will engage deeply with the vision of the plenary council and involve women in creating the Church of the future.
Council for Australian Catholic Women chairperson Dominican Sister Trish Madigan said the colloquium program was dynamic and purposeful.
She also said she was “confident that those who attend will find the experience of shared learning and collaboration, very life-giving”.
“We are hoping for a huge number of registrations from across Australia and for at least two women to attend from every diocese,” Sr Madigan said.
As 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the ground-breaking research project Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus, the event will commence with a facilitated conversation to review the progress and possibilities for Australian Catholic women today.
Keynote speaker and scripture scholar Sr Michele Connelly will use key texts from the New Testament to explore what it is for women in the Church today to walk the path of faith with others.
Debra Zannella, an experienced leader in the health and community sector, will reflect on what Pope Francis offers us as a framework for who we, as Church, are called to become.
The workshops will be split into two streams.
One will allow the experience of women in diverse situations to be acknowledged, such as refugees; and another to draw on the expertise of women researchers and professionals, such as Dr Trudy Dantis, from the Pastoral Research Office.