Each year, Year 10 students from our Australian Loreto schools are involved in the Mary Ward Connect program run by the Loreto Schools of Australia Committee (LSAC). Usually, a student exchange program where schools and students host visitors from other Loreto schools, the COVID-normal situation meant a reimagining for 2021. While the original aims of the program, including the continued celebration of over 400 years of Mary Ward education, promoting student leadership, and building and strengthening connections between schools, students and staff remained a priority, the 2021 bespoke program also aimed to explore the common ground of the Year 10 reality in Australia. It provided an experience of the challenges and responsibilities of global citizenship and fostered and engaged the Mary Ward global, provincial, and national networks.
To prepare for the online forum held on 12 March, Year 10 students explored the fourth direction of the 2017 Mary Ward Schools’ Compass – Engaging with the Bigger Picture. They considered what would be heard, seen, thought and felt at a Loreto school in Australia if the schools were promoting “the values, skills, and behaviours needed for living as global citizens finding fulfilment in harmony with all creation” (MW Schools’ Compass, 2017). This included identifying how all things are interconnected and how Laudato Si and Agenda 2030: Transforming our World call us to engage with the bigger picture. The insights of young people and their ability to identify the reality of the context around them are remarkable, and the responses to this activity demonstrated wisdom and discernment.
On the day of Mary Ward Connect, students were fortunate to hear from some remarkable members of the Mary Ward network globally, provincially, and nationally. Highlights came from keynote speakers Sr Orla Treacy ibvm, the Principal of Loreto Rumbek in South Sudan (speaking from Ireland), and Srs Hoa Tran ibvm and Trang Pham ibvm from St Mary’s Hostel in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. These inspiring Mary Ward women leaders spoke about the experience of education for girls in South Sudan and Vietnam and how this education leads to the transformation of whole communities. Their input allowed our Australian students the opportunity to reflect on how they individually and as a school community might ensure our ongoing work for equitable access to girls’ education worldwide.
The program provided a timely focus in a year where our province is prioritising strengthening an engaged Loreto network and, in the week following International Women’s Day, that called for women to lead the fight for an equal future in a COVID-19 world.
Author: Andreia Wigan, Director of Mission, Loreto Coorparoo