In the lead-up to International Women’s Day on Friday, the Catholic Bishops of Australia have acknowledged the inspirational work of women throughout the country who now make up 77 per cent of the Church’s workforce.
And with more than 65 per cent of leadership or lay ministry roles within the Church exercised by women, the work of women in Church structures and organisations has become increasingly critical.
“The role of women within the Church today is even more crucial than ever,” Archbishop Christopher Prowse, chairman of the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity & Ministry said.
“They exercise that Marian dimension of holy Mother Church that is essential to us continuing to becoming the Church that God wants us to be.”
International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, follows the recent colloquium, “Stirring the Waters: Catholic Women responding to the Spirit”, held in Adelaide and sponsored by the Council for Australian Catholic Women.
In his opening remarks to the Adelaide colloquium, Archbishop Prowse spoke about the importance of this year’s 20th anniversary of the publication of Woman & Man: One in Christ Jesus, a research project on women’s participation in the Church that had unprecedented consultation throughout the country at the time.
“The Holy Spirit inspires women also to show the tender and maternal face of the Church and to draw us like a mother with her children into a missionary discipleship befitting the challenges of today’s society,” Archbishop Prowse told the gathering of more than 160 women from across Australia.
At the colloquium, National Centre for Pastoral Research director Dr Trudy Dantis presented a workshop in which she outlined the increasingly important involvement of women within the Church’s workforce and leadership structures.
Data is also showing that women are contributing to the Plenary Council 2020 process in significant numbers.
The latest available statistics on submissions to the Listening and Dialogue phase of the Plenary Council showed that more than 40,000 of those who have participated in the process have been women – making up 56 per cent of all responses.
“It’s encouraging that so many women are offering their insights and stories to the Plenary Council process,” Archbishop Prowse said.
“May those holy women of the Church, most particularly our own Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop and Mary, the Mother of God, continue to inspire you.”