Women rekindling their story at St Joseph’s

Rekindle their Story was the theme of the recent get together for women from the Upper and Lower Hunter women for an event held under the auspices of the Maitland-Newcastle contact group for the Council for Australian Catholic Women (CACW).

The chill of the morning dissipated amid warm greetings, hot cuppas and ‘school made’ sausage rolls enjoyed by members who had travelled to St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen.

Guest speaker Helene O’Neill, the Diocese’s Parish-Family Liaison Officer and Co-Chair of the contact group, spoke on Theology of the Legs. Her presentation captured her approach to life and faith – active, moving and indefatigable!

Helene generously shared details of her eventful life, including difficult times that threatened to shake her deep faith. She said that the five Fs characterise her life, namely: faith, food, family, fun and fitness. She captured each of these in her presentation, including the “mystery dancer” and a brisk walk in “God’s playground”. 

Helene said, “Without relationships and without getting to know people, what else is there? I’m grateful I’ve been able to acknowledge the gifts I’ve been given.”           

Diocesan Director of Pastoral Ministries, Teresa Brierley, shared the Plenary Council 2020’s six National Themes for Discernment, “hot off the press”.

Like Helene, Teresa was generous in sharing her story, which underlines her work. Despite sadness and deep frustration, she said unequivocally, “Faith is the core of who I am.”

Under her direction, groups of participants explored the themes, responding to the question, “What should our action be?” Teresa encouraged all to focus on the ‘home front’ and to remain hopeful, because “Anything could happen!”

The day was enhanced by excellent catering, under the direction of Kristy Wadwell, and a musical interlude with teacher Claire Dent accompanying her students. St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen is certainly the most hospitable of schools!

The contact group hopes that similar opportunities will be provided in other areas of the Diocese.      

The Council for Australian Catholic Women Maitland-Newcastle (CACW-MN) was formed in 2000 following the release of Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus, Report on the Participation of Women in the Catholic Church in Australia commissioned by the Australian Catholic Bishops.

It is a ‘grass roots’ body that liaises with local women to receive and provide advice to the CACW (the advisory body to the Australian Bishops Conference) relating to the participation of women in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and the Catholic Church.

The group of enthusiastic women is active and maintains a continuing passion for equity, increased participation and leadership and decision-making roles in the Church.  Currently it is seeking to expand its outreach into the Diocese and welcomes new members.

We have:

  • hosted the national body in 2014, and issued an invitation to the CACW to come back to the diocese in 2020;
  • instituted the annual Magdalene Award that recognises the contribution and participation of a woman living in and committed to the Church in the Diocese;
  • celebrated International Women’s Day each year with Mass in the Cathedral and morning tea;
  • hosted outreach gatherings to hear from women across the Diocese;
  • surveyed local women and produced a report – Listening to Local women, with recommendations to the Bishop and the CACW;
  • presented, in conjunction with the CWLA (Inc) reflection days for women;
  • established links to the Council for Mission;
  • established a database to provide information to members; and
  • held regular meetings to address issues of concern.

For further information please contact Tracey Edstein tracey.edstein@bigpond.com OR Helene O’Neill Helene.ONeill@mn.catholic.org.au

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Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is a member of the Raymond Terrace Parish and a freelance writer with a particular interest in church matters.