Catholic communities throughout Australia held events this month to celebrate International Women’s Day under the theme #BalanceforBetter – a call to action for an acceleration of gender equity across the world.
Andrea Dean, director of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Office for the Participation of Women, said events included a Canberra breakfast with guest speakers, award ceremonies to recognise the contributions of women to the life and work of the Church and the expansion of a Catholic Women’s mentoring program.
Ms Dean said there were numerous international disparities where women and girls continued to be deprived of access to education, health and adequate housing.
“We’re interested in working towards greater equality and justice for these women and to highlight areas where action needs to be taken,” she said.
“Our Catholic social justice principles are very clear regarding human dignity, human equality, the dignity of the human person and the common good. These principles all underpin social conditions that allow all people to realise their full potential and for their human dignity to be respected.
“In Australia, we are especially concerned about the continued violence against women, where statistics suggest that one woman each week dies at the hands of an intimate partner or former partner. This is a situation that gravely concerns everyone in our Church.”
The Canberra International Women’s Day breakfast featured guest speaker Genevieve Jacobs, a prominent media personality and Catholic who is responding to the question: “Why Am I Still Catholic?”
The Council for Australian Catholic Women Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Contact Group marked International Women’s Day with Mass celebrated by Bishop Bill Wright followed by the Magdalene Award ceremony.
Four local women were nominated for the award, which recognises a Catholic woman who lives out her faith in a way that makes a real difference to the lives of others in her community, with Claire McWilliam, of Toronto, taking out the honour for 2019.
Afterwards, Claire told mnnewstoday.com: “I don’t do the things I do to be recognised but it was an honour to receive this award in front of other inspiring women from the diocese. With grace, compassion and a peaceful nature, we have the abilities and opportunities to support each other and our church”.
Claire’s contributions have ranged across liturgy, ministry to young people, participation in Australian Catholic Youth Festivals, Caritas, Catholic Mission and more.
In Sydney, Catholic Women’s Mentoring collaborated with the Catholic Women’s League to host a panel event on Friday evening at the Polding Centre.
Catholic commentator and lawyer Monica Doumit hosted the panel, which explored the theme of “Cultivating Feminine Genius”.
International Women’s Day is all the more important to the Catholic community within Australia with national statistics revealing that women now make up 77 per cent of the Church’s workforce and more than 65 per cent of leadership or lay ministry roles within the Church being exercised by women.
“Women’s commitment to the Church and involvement in the Church at every level is extraordinary. In the future, many women hope for greater participation within decision-making roles in the Catholic Church,” Ms Dean said.
“On one level, this year’s theme of #BalanceforBetter calls us all to live a healthy, balanced life. The concept of balance is also about balanced access to essential, life-giving resources for women, not only in Australia, but also internationally.”