By Anthony Barich
The key to reviving the role of young women in the Church is for priests and Religious to engage them by their mid-teens, listening and encouraging them to utilise their skills by engaging in Church-sponsored organisations.
This was the message from two prominent young women working within the Catholic Church – World Youth Day coordinator for the Archdiocese of Perth Anita Parker and Perth-based Young Christian Workers national secretary Sara Kane – who addressed about 20 women at the Mary MacKillop Centre in South Perth on April 6.
It was the first attempt by Kerry Macfarlane, the Commission for Australian Catholic Women’s new Perth liaison, to rejuvenate the organisation in Perth by facilitating events to inspire women to reconnect with the Church.
For both women, it was their local parish priest who approached them in their most familiar and comfortable environment to encourage them to use their skills in more active participation in the Church.
Though working in “male-dominated” areas most of her life, Miss Parker says they functioned well because of female support, and in turn she always felt supported by clergy and religious. From her experience, she believes the roles of men and women in the Church are complementary, not demeaning, and her advice to women experiencing difficulties in ministry is to “think laterally” to achieve success.
As a music, maths and religious education teacher and army reservist, she advised that youth need to be involved in church-sponsored groups like Young Vinnies and youth councils before year 11 (age 16) as this encourages an active connection with the Church before their lives get too busy with other priorities and distractions.
Miss Parker herself was involved in school councils and was invited to join the parish music ministry by her parish priest, Mgr Michael Keating, and music is still a driving passion for her.
Miss Kane also worked in youth and community services for local government after school, and was approached by her parish priest at a surf life saving function, asking her about how she was going in life, listening then discussed YCW and asked for her involvement.
Impressed by the action youth were taking motivated be their faith and YCW’s “see, judge, act” motto, Miss Kane said she developed a greater understanding of the Gospels and how they relate to her own life that she had not experienced in her Catholic school religious education.
Her advice was that the “feminine voice” needs to be heard at all levels of the Church so “we can bring our complementary gifts to the table”.
Good Shepherd Sister Anna Warlow and Sister Mary Shanahan RSCJ will run retreats from May 9-11 at Nazareth House and St John of God Hospital, Geraldton as part of a conference called “We dream a Church: Women walking together, clustering around a story”.
Also addressing the forum will be Kimberly Davis, director of the Office for Participation of Women that advises the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, and whose focus is on education possibilities for women in the Church and on indigenous Catholics – two of nine recommendations from a research report into the participation of women that resulted in the ACBC’s 2000 social justice document, “Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus”.
The CACW’s mandate is to carry out the document’s recommendations.
For information on the Geraldton event contact Maureen or Alison on 08 9965 8882.