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Catholic Women’s Network aims at strengthening women in faith together

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Attendees at the launched event at St Mary’s Cathedral House on 13 September. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Attendees at the launch of the Catholic Women’s Network at St Mary’s Cathedral House on 13 September. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

The Archdiocese of Sydney is now home to the Catholic Women’s Network, an initiative of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation to connect women with each other and with existing women’s ministries and to support them to develop their unique gifts for the Church and the world.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP launched the network on 13 September in a beautiful floral-themed evening cocktail event held at St Mary’s Cathedral House for around 100 guests.

“Its mission is to live out St Catherine of Siena’s call to be who God created us to be, for in doing so we will set the world on fire,” said the SCE’s Hazel Lim.

“faith-filled women on fire with the Holy Spirit can be the hands and feet of God.”

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“Drawing on the inspiration of Catherine McAuley, the CWN aims to foster a congruence of heart and purpose, helping to fit women for earth without unfitting them for heaven.”

CWN aims at being authentically and obediently Catholic, mission focussed, relevant to the experiences of women, approachable and accessible and is supported by an advisory committee comprised of Catholic women leaders.

It has roots in a previous successful mentoring network founded by Christine Pace and supported by Sally Hood following their completion of a two-year fellowship with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Young Catholic Women’s Interfaith Fellowship (now known as Leadership for Mission).

Jessica Doherty tells her story of faith and her hope for the Catholic Women’s Network. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Jessica Doherty tells her story of faith and her hope for the Catholic Women’s Network. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Christine said that the pair had felt called to create the structure in 2017 to help Catholic women to connect in a spirit of accompaniment and mentorship in order to foster their God-given gifts and talents. They collaborate on the new network with Hazel and the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation’s Jessica Doherty, with Sally also now a member of the SCE.

“We saw mentoring as a tool of empowerment which will help us to become what God wants us to be; faith-filled women on fire with the Holy Spirit can be the hands and feet of God. Catholic women, affirmed in their faith and capabilities can do amazing things to encourage each other and impact the lives of those around them,” she said.

“We can transform society by drawing others to Christ but to do this, we need solid formation, spiritual nourishment and encouragement from others in our faith.”

“It’s beautiful because it brings life, as the older ones give the younger ones wisdom and the younger ones bring energy and hope.”

The network for women of the archdiocese and beyond its borders will offer community, retreats and the potential for mentoring among women of diverse vocations and backgrounds, a resource library and an active events calendar to promote women’s ministries and events.

In his keynote address Archbishop Fisher said it was providential to be launching the network at a time when the world was mourning “the death of the greatest woman leader of modern times” Queen Elizabeth II.

Speaking too of the heavenly Queenship of the Blessed Mother of Christ, he listed her qualities of sensitivity, receptivity, nurturing, generosity and strength in gentleness.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP with Selina Abdallah, the daughter of Danny and Leila. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP with Selina Abdallah, the daughter of Danny and Leila. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“While not all women are called, like them, to be queens, all are called by virtue of their baptismal vocation to be priest, prophet and king and be a lead in our Church and society,” he said.

Women take up many leadership roles in the Church, for example in schools and safeguarding, but the archbishop acknowledged that “sadly, the vast and generous contributions of women can at times be overlooked”. However he does not believe that the recent push for a female diaconate evident during the Plenary Council of Australia is the answer.

Jessica told The Catholic Weekly that she was delighted to see a genuine cross section of women at different vocations, experiences, ages and life stages initially engaged with the network, and believes that will continue as it grows.

“If we want a restoration in the Church we need to form our women, because they will form the rest of the world.”

“It’s beautiful because it brings life, as the older ones give the younger ones wisdom and the younger ones bring energy and hope,” she said.

“That accompaniment is so important.

“If we want a restoration in the Church we need to form our women, because they will form the rest of the world. There’s a real need for women to be heard as well. So many of them are living out of the woundedness of their hearts and not the fullness of their hearts.

The CWN launch provided a great opportunity for networking. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
The CWN launch provided a great opportunity for networking. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“So we need to form women in the language of the heart, and connect the head to the heart. So many people have head knowledge about our faith without heart knowledge; many have deep love for God without that intellectual depth, and we need both in order to be integrated.

“That’s my hope for this network.”

Clara Geoghegan, executive secretary of the ACBC’s commission for evangelisation, laity and ministry, told The Catholic Weekly she looked forward to seeing the network grow.

“God provided the Church with all the gifts it needs to flourish, so we need to ask ourselves if it’s not flourishing, which gifts are we not calling forward?”

“It speaks to my own passion of animating the gifts of all the baptised and the gifts that women bring to the Church and the world. God provided the Church with all the gifts it needs to flourish, so we need to ask ourselves if it’s not flourishing, which gifts are we not calling forward?”

Beloved Retreat for women

The first CWN Beloved Retreat will run on 5 November, 2022, at Benedict Retreat Centre in Grose Vale.

The retreat will run from 8.30 am – 5.30pm, including morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. Register at https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing/950134

For more information email [email protected]

Stay in touch and sign up to the Catholic Women’s Network newsletter here.

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