Pat Banister, organiser of the event, shared the global theme for International Women’s day, Pledge for Parity. “Worldwide, women continue to contribute to social, economic, cultural and political achievement. But progress towards gender parity has slowed in many places. The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn't close entirely until 2133. Everyone – men and women – can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly.”
Four speakers then shared an aspect of their lives with the women gathered. Denise Ryan is married to a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, and shared how the discernment process included her, and how his ministry is based on their sacrament of marriage. Denise is the Ministry Co-ordinator at St Clare’s High School, Taree.
Kiri Hata from CatholicCare Refugee Service shared how she works to empower women around the world. She said, “If you reach the women, you reach the whole family.” Kiri has been involved in seeing positive change for women from the UN level through to village level. She inspired the room with her passion and encouragement to all women that “our opportunity is to make a difference in this world”.
Sr Anne Ryan rsm continued the theme of ‘change’ with her journey of being trained as a monastic nun. As she was about the leave the order, the mother of the order told her that documents from the Vatican had arrived, and they gave permission to the nuns to ‘be women again’. Sr Anne stayed on and began a Spirituality Centre to meet the needs of women seeking spiritual input and community in Melbourne. Sr Anne now runs the Mercy Spirituality Centre in Toronto, and continues to provide that spiritual support for women so that they can go back and share it with their community.
Helene O’Neill spoke about the role women have played in her life. She shared the aspects that make up her whole life: family, work, sport and interests. Helene shared her journey though cancer, saying that now she is now a support for others and a research assistant. Her overall message was that as women we need to be courageous and bold, no matter what comes our way.