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Sisterhood for the next generation

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Helena Roumanus (second from left) with participants in the mentoring network. Photo: Marilyn Rodrigues
Helena Roumanus (second from left) with participants in the mentoring network. Photo: Marilyn Rodrigues

For young Catholic women, holding steadfast to Christ’s vision and teachings can sometimes be a lonely and confusing journey.

“You are constantly at odds with people on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and issues regarding sexuality,” said Hashya Weerakkody, the Life, Marriage and Family Officer at the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation

“It puts you at odds with people even among family, friends and colleagues.”

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But a new pilot mentoring program, launched by the Catholic Women’s Network at the SCE on 17 October, aims at ensuring young Catholic women of the Archdiocese of Sydney will have an “older sister” to lean on and learn from.

“A mentor is like an older sister or older friend that you can trust to give you advice or help walk you through different seasons, whether it be transitioning from being engaged to newly-married or being newly-married to having your first child,” said Ms Weerakkody.

“All these stages of life bring with it challenges and while no one’s life is the same, there’s a wisdom and truth that can be acquired from each of these experiences that can be shared.”

The program sees young Catholic women paired up with an older female mentor. The launch of the pilot program at the Archdiocese of Sydney chancery at St Martha’s Leichhardt saw 14 mentors and their mentees meet for the first time.

The initiative is part of the SCE’s mission to “Go Make Disciples” by strengthening connections and encouraging deeper discipleship through accompaniment.

“It has the capacity to nurture and encourage intentional disciples,” said Ms Weerakkody.

“The encouragement a mentor can pass on to their mentee can help them serve with more boldness and courage, to share their own gifts and the beauty of the faith. “

Nineteen-year-old early childcare student Olga Shchepotkina came to the launch wondering whether she should quit her course, and was looking for guidance in the next stage of her life.

“I heard about it from a friend, and I felt that it was something that could greatly benefit me,” she says.

The Catholic Women’s Network team have paired Ms Shchepotkina with communicator, businesswoman and devout Catholic, Selina Hasham, CEO of global travel company Harvest Journeys.

“Any woman of any age can use guidance from a mentor. It’s a unique opportunity for women of all ages just to have that support to be able to feel like they can have someone to talk to, ask questions and seek guidance. I’m very excited,” said Ms Shchepotkina.

Ms Weerakkody, who has signed on for mentoring herself, believes the benefits of this program will run both ways.

“This is enriching the lives of both mentee and mentor. The faith and the life of both are mutually enriching,” she said.

“I’m in a transitional stage of my life. I want to know what does being a good sister and daughter look like in this period of my life.

“I don’t have all the answers but here’s a lady a couple of stages ahead of me who has navigated this before. And she can help me.

“It’s about helping us to not only encounter Christ but to grow deeper in his love and allowing his life to become our life—a beautiful mystery that is unlike anything else.”

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