Catholic Women’s Mentoring

ONE HUNDRED-and-forty women and men gathered in Canberra on International Women’s Day to explore what more can be done to ignite the ‘feminine genius’.

The Archdiocese marked the day with the launch at Merici College in Braddon of Catholic Women’s Mentoring.

Panel members Senator Jacinta Collins, Giulia Jones MLA and disability advocate Sonia di Mezza discussed issues of gender balance, parental leave, the role of mentoring as well as their unique responses to career, motherhood and faith.

Media personality Genevieve Jacobs was the panel host.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse spoke of his delight at the mentoring program being introduced to the Archdiocese.

He commented that the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, as described in Luke’s Gospel (1: 39-45), “is a profound example of the yearning we have for mentoring, particularly at times of challenge”.

Ms di Mezza promoted ‘getting the priorities right’ which for her are, “Number one, God, number two, my family, friends, those I care about, number three work.” She said in her experience other things then fall into place.

Mrs Jones acknowledged that the changes initiated by other women in politics opened doors for her participation in the ACT Assembly. She spoke of her two grandmothers, her mother and Mary MacKillop as Catholic women who have been her models and inspiration.

Senator Collins, who entered the Australian parliament first in 1995, spoke of the absence of political women mentors in her early career. Her Catholic formation influences her ongoing concern for social justice.

“Women’s participation, in all the ways that are possible, is key to shaping the church and to building a better church,” she said.

Loretta Wholley, Principal of Merici College which hosted the event, said “We are 100% committed to creating a culture of mentoring”.

Merici’s hospitality students prepared food and served guests during the proceedings.

Archbishop Prowse said he hoped the project would draw up, in the Archdiocese, the voice of Catholic women in a more prominent way. 

“My desire is to re-establish a Commission for Women and I’m sure that the many voices of women tonight will help us all to see where God is leading us in this particular way,” he said.

Archbishop Prowse prayed for the project’s success and thanked Andrea Dean, the Director of the National Office for the Participation of Women, for her efforts in coordinating the night.

Ms Dean said women from all over Australia were signing up to Catholic Women’s Mentoring with a launch having been held in Sydney Archdiocese.

“Once women have been matched in a mentoring relationship they arrange to meet face to face or to use telephone or Skype for their regular conversations,” she said.

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Happy International Women’s Day!

On this beautiful Canberra Autumn evening, I welcome you all to the Canberra launch of the Catholic Women’s Mentoring project.

First of all, thanks very much to Merici College, to Loretta Wholley, the principal of Merici College, and her staff and students for providing hospitality and a wonderful venue.

Secondly, thanks to Andrea Dean, the Director of the National Office for the Participation of Women, at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.  You and your team have put much time and effort into this launch night.  Thank you so much.

This project is truly inspired!

The theme of this evening “Igniting Feminine Genius” is clearly taken from St John Paul II in his writings on the role of women in the Church and in the world.  It’s a great title!  I thank you all for coming so enthusiastically in really good numbers.

In my prayer and meditation time this morning I was thinking about this evening.

I was asking myself the question…Is there any scene in the Gospels which could be compared somewhat to a Catholic Women’s Mentoring Project?

Immediately it came to my mind.  It is the passage in Luke’s Gospel which we now call “The Visitation.”(Luke1:39-45)

Surely the first kind of “mentoring group” in the Gospels is between Mary and Elizabeth.

As soon as Mary said “yes” to God’s great invitation to become the mother of God (The Annunciation) she immediately wished to “share her joy” with her elderly cousin Elizabeth.  This was a journey of quite some distance and not without its hazards and dangers.  But it was a real priority for Mary!

Now because of the encounter of “The Visitation” we have two beautiful prayers.  Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary is the first part of the “Hail Mary”, and Mary’s response to Elizabeth is what we now call the “Magnificat.” Here two incredible biblical women are praising God for the many blessings he has given them out of his Amazing Grace.  There surely lies the foundation of the “feminine genius” in Christianity!

My prayer is that this “feminine genius” will be ignited in a particular way through this inspired idea of Mentors and Mentees.

I also hope that it will draw up, in our Archdiocese, the voice of Catholic women in a more prominent way.  My desire is to re-establish a Commission for Women and I’m sure that the many voices of women tonight will help us all to see were God is leading us in this particular way as well.

So I pray God’s blessing upon this night.  I pray that it becomes a wonderful night for all of us! 

Do feel, by my presence here today, not only my support and encouragement as the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn.  But also, feel the support of the Bishops of Australia on this new initiative which I know is going to be showcased in different Dioceses around Australia in the times ahead.  I understand that Sydney has already had their launch and now it is the launch of Canberra and Goulburn Archdiocese.

May this night be truly blessed by the Lord!

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn