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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
Frank expressions of areas of concern were
included in the repor t arising from a recent
local sur vey into the participation of women in
The main work of the Council for Austr alian
Catholic Women when it met in Newcastle
late in July was to consider the outcomes of
a sur vey of local women regarding women's
par ticipation in the Church.
The sur vey comprised six open-ended
questions focusing on women's par ticipation
in decision-making, leader ship and ministry,
in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and
in the Church more broadly.
According to local member of the Council
for Austr alian Catholic Women (CACW),
Dr Helen Belcher, the sur vey r esponses
both affir med the significant contribution
of women in parishes and lamented the
oppor tunities not offered, or not taken.
" 'Par ticipation' and 'decision-making' are
not necessarily the same," she said. "One
respondent wrote, 'In my parish, there are
plenty of oppor tunities for, and examples
of, women taking roles of leadership and
ministry, and of making decisions as to what
they will do and initiate, and how they will
do this. However, it might be stretching
it to say that 'the parish' promotes this
par ticipation of women.'
"Another noted that formation and
spirituality programs were available
but family and work commitments
militated against women taking up these
Almost half the responses expressed
concerns about the structure of the Church
and Church agencies. One parishioner
acknowledged the tr aditional obstacles
to progress but concluded positively: ". . .
just maybe, with fresh winds of change
evident from the Vatican, with an open and
refreshing outlook from Bishop Bill, surely
avenues can be identified that will draw
inclusive representation 'at the Highest
Level' into existence."
Indeed, in his apostolic exhor tation Evangelii
Gaudium (2013), Pope Fr ancis wrote, ". . .
we need to create...broader oppor tunities
for a more incisive female presence in
the Church. Because "the feminine genius
is needed in all expressions in the life of
society, the pr esence of women must also
be guar anteed in the workplace"*, and in
the various other settings wher e impor tant
decisions are made, both in the Church and
in social structures." (n103)
Dr Belcher named some of the areas of
concern expressed by respondents :
• the very real and often unrecognised
contribution of women to the life of
parishes and the Church
• the need for women's per spective in
proclaiming the gospel and in homilies
• the clerical and patriarchal nature
of the Church
• the need to begin the conver sation about
ordained ministr y within the Church
• lack of balance in decision-making,
leadership and ministry
• the absence of young women.
The survey report is still a draft report.
Women and men are invited to provide
feedback by 12 September, particularly in
relation to the recommendations that have
arisen from the sur vey responses . The
repor t will then be finalised and passed
on to Bishop Bill Wright and the Diocesan
Pastoral Council for consideration
The report can be read at w w w.mn.catholic.
women. Please visit www.opw.catholic.org.au.
*Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium
of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 295.
BY TRACEY EDSTEIN
LISTENING TO LOCAL WOMEN
Bernadette Matthias shared her story
when the Council for Australian
Catholic Women visited Newcastle.
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