Plenary voices: Sr Isabell Naumann

This is the intervention given at the Plenary by Sr Isabell Naumann ISSM, President of the Catholic Institute of Sydney and a member of the International Theological Commission

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On principle, there is no profession that women cannot carry out, for in the words of Edith Stein, “no woman is solely a ‘woman,’ however each woman is unique and possesses an individual disposition in the same way as men. This particular disposition determines the competence for this or that profession….”

Yet she points out that there are certain professions in which the female particularity is especially needed and actualised.

Sister Isabell Naumann ISSM is President of the Catholic Institute of Sydney and a member of the International Theological Commission of the Vatican. Photo: supplied

Woman’s call is that of giving life in all spheres of life (spiritual motherhood). It is an animating task and is characteristic of every woman, be it in positions within the secular world or in the Church, in scientific fields or in the family. Wherever a woman governs, leads and directs, she does it as an animator, and in this capacity she can contribute towards a respectful recognition of each other’s dignity and distinct roles in the present culture.

As regards the Church, it is for me above all the recognition and acknowledgment of the active and responsible presence of woman in the Church and the fostering of genuine collaboration on various levels.

In my position as President of the Catholic Institute of Sydney, I am responsible for one of the oldest tertiary educational institutions in our country (theology and philosophy have been taught continuously since the 1880s).

Drawing upon the intellectual and spiritual heritage of the Catholic Church and the wider Christian traditions, together with my colleagues I try through genuine dedication and commitment to initiate the students into the craft of theology, and to help them to develop the skills needed to bring their theological education to bear on their professional life and on the pastoral responsibilities that they may pursue. Consequently, it is indispensable to the fuller vision that our understanding not renounce this quest for truth.

Woman’s call is that of spiritual motherhood, giving life in all spheres of life, says Prof Isabell Naumann ISSM, President of the Catholic Institute of Sydney. Photo: CNS, Paul haring

Important aspects of this role are:

  • listening to human experience as essential to the theological task in its quest for truth and recognising that all human knowledge is contextual, limited and not without unadulterated objectivity.
  • promoting and fostering genuine dialogue between all concerned and so help facilitate the change from an argument and debate culture to a dialogue culture. Dialogue not simply as an exchange of ideas but as an exchange of gifts (Ut unum sint, 28).
  • recognising, fostering and furthering the gifts in others for the good of others. It is the beautiful task of engendering and nurturing the God-given image in the other– after and with the help of Mother of God, who is the exemplar of what it means to be “a new creation in Christ.” (2 Cor 5:17)

A new approach to the person of Mary as the prototype of the “new creation in Christ,” would assist us as Church, to see on all levels, what it means “to be sent”, to have a mission of service to others – it reflects the integral beauty of a Marian person expressed in women as genuine spiritual motherhood and in men as genuine spiritual fatherhood.