Mission & Identity Resources | March 2023
The Loreto Australia and South East Asia website succinctly identifies the mission of the Province and Loreto’s global mission as “To transform the Church and the world, particularly by empowering women to seek truth and do justice.” I wonder how often we sit with the phrase, `To transform the Church’? The papacy of Pope Francis is opening opportunities for the Catholic Church at international, national and local levels that will impact on the future expression of Church in our world – how are we, as people of Loreto, engaging with contributing to that shift? How are we embracing the opportunity inherent in Pope Francis’ persistent invitation to live as a synodal Church, one that listens to the voices of all, that is focused on Gospel vision and responds to the needs of our shared world?
I recently had the pleasure of attending `Journeying Together with Sr Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ – A conversation on `journeying together’ as Church, both universally and locally.’ Sr. Nathalie is Undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod; she is also the highest-ranking female at the Vatican. As Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, the influence that Sr. Nathalie is able to exercise is truly significant – her work shapes how `being Church’ is understood and expressed, now and for our future. The first woman to have voting rights in the Synod of Bishops, Sr. Nathalie’s appointment reflects Pope Francis’ assertion that “`it is a duty of justices to fight against all discrimination and violence’ on women… Together, we need to support in any way to involve more women in leadership positions at all levels.”
When asked about what it means to be a woman in such a significant position at the Vatican, Sr. Nathalie spoke of the many women who have come before her, not only those celebrated, but the many, many who have worked tirelessly in service of the Church and Her mission at grass roots level. This made me think of the many staff in our schools that work hard to run JPIC and other social justice groups, to plan sacramental celebrations, implement immersion opportunities, facilitate religious education and leadership classes and engage our students in open forums with various Church groups. It also brought to mind the many alumni of Loreto schools who have gone on to dedicate their professional lives to realising the Gospel vision for our world in arenas such as the law, health and outreach services. There is no doubt that our staff, students and graduates contribute to the church and its mission in our world.
Nevertheless, Sr. Nathalie’s work and various efforts around the world to develop the practice of synodality prompt us to ask: how are we supporting the women and girls that we serve in our Loretocommunities to, in the tradition of Mary Ward, take up and create opportunities to contribute to the mission of the Church? How are we building communities that are understood to be expressions of church and that contribute to the transformation of Church? Mary Ward made such an indelible contribution to the Catholic Church, whether she was recognized for it at the time (or for hundreds of years afterwards) or not: how are we contributing? How can we take up opportunities to journey together and take steps to grow as a synodal Church? How can we leave behind something on which others can build?
Synodality is learnt through a lived experience of the Holy Spirit. Not from a book, a definition, a presentation, but lived experience of engagement. This engagement asks of us deep listening to the Word of God. As we continue our Lenten journeys, may we listen to the Word of God, to each other, to those `on the inside’ and those `outside’ – and may we remember that we are all children of God, called to realise the gospel vision for humanity.
You may be interested in A Round Table Discussion with Sr Nathalie Becquart
Mary Ward Connect | 1st March
This year sees Mary Ward Connect returning to its traditional format, with staff and Year 10 students once again participating in an exchange program where schools host visitors from other Loreto schools. On March 1st, all participants will share in an online event that will include a focus on the upcoming celebration of 150 years of Loreto life in Australia in 2025.
Zero Discrimination Day | 1st March
Zero Discrimination Day promotes everyone’s right to live a dignified life free from discrimination regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, skin colour, height, weight, profession, education, and beliefs. This day also provides the opportunity to highlight the discrimination faced by millions around the world because of their health status. Today there are 134 countries explicitly criminalising or otherwise prosecuting HIV exposure, non-disclosure or transmission. UNAIDS is leading the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. This year under the theme “Save lives: Decriminalise“, UNAIDS is highlighting how the decriminalisation of key populations and people living with HIV saves lives. On this day may we pray for a more human and caring world, characterised by respectful relationships that support and promote the dignity of all.
Clean-Up Australia Day | 5th March
Supporting Clean-Up Australia Day is one way to engage with the Loreto commitment to ecological justice which asks us to take seriously the plea for ecological conversion in Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Sí Resources for school participation are available at www.cleanup.org.au/schools.
International Womens Day | 8th March
The United Nations’ observance of International Women’s Day is exploring the theme, DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality: “Bringing women and other marginalized groups into technology results in more creative solutions and has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality. … A gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology and digital education can increase the awareness of women and girls regarding their rights and civic engagement.” UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous observed in February of 2023, “The struggle for gender equality is a reality for women everywhere. SDG 5 is off track. That means the 2030 Agenda is off track since the SDGs cannot be achieved without gender equality.” For more information on gender equality and tech and innovation, visit techforgenerationequality.org
On this IWD, may we invite all people to give thanks for the women and girls in their lives. As we celebrate the inherent human dignity of women and girls, let us also recommit ourselves to ’empowering women and girls to seek truth and do justice’.
Death of Mother Gonzaga Barry | 15th March
“Aim at something excellent; our life is largely influenced by what we aim at – our ideals often make our realities”. (Gonzaga Barry in Eucalyptus Blossoms, Dec 1897)
“Much of Mother Gonzaga’s life’s work is reflected in her letters, both public and private. They reveal … an educationalist indefatigable in the pursuit of an intelligent and ambitious programme of expansion and academic development within the Loreto order. She travelled widely in Australia and abroad, always keeping her Sisters informed about new methods in teaching and administration. Her concern embraced the whole order, not merely one separate province.” (McTighe and Palmer)
On this anniversary of the death of M. Gonzaga Barry, you may like to draw inspiration from some excerpts from her writings on education.
National Close the Gap Day | 16th March
Since 2007 the National #ClosetheGap Day is observed on the third Thursday of March in support of advocating for health equity for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. It provides a platform for educating about the health issues and barriers to well-being faced by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sisters and brothers. What is Close the Gap Day? provides background information and activities to support closing the gap.
Harmony Day | 21st March
Harmony Day celebrates our diversity and aims to bring together Australians from all different backgrounds. It presents another opportunity to celebrate and to highlight the importance of practicing inclusiveness and respect. In the papal encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, (On fraternity and social friendship), we are reminded that, “Other cultures are not enemies from which we need to protect ourselves, but differing reflections of the richness of human life” (n.147). Also, that “Each of us can learn something from others” (n.215). As Loreto Catholic Christian communities, may we do all we can to create and maintain a sense of belonging for everyone.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination | 21st March
The United Nations General Assembly reiterates that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies. This assertion brings to mind two pieces of Scripture. In Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we are told that the Spirit allots gifts to each person. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that he came that we “may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In this year when we celebrate the Mary Ward value of Justice, today is an opportune time to challenge our communities to consider the role that perceived `casual racism’ plays in our daily lives. Read on to explore what the Australian Human Rights Commission has to say about `casual racism‘.
World Water Day | 22nd March
At Be the Change, you will find inspiring stories and a handy Commitment Action List that can be used to remind us of the importance of carefully thinking about how we use, consume and manage water. The Justice and Peace Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney also offers plenty of resources in support of awareness raising and action focused on working towards ecological justice.
Carolyn Young, Director of Mission & Identity
BA (Hons.), GradDipEd (Sec.), MRE, MEdLead, MBA (Exec)