The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, particularly gender inequality facing girls, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights. This year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.”
There are nearly 600 million girls aged 10 to 19 in the world today, each with limitless individual potential. They are however disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. Between inequities in secondary education to protection issues, adolescent girls are uniquely impacted and should benefit from targeted investments and programs that address their distinct needs. Investing in adolescent girls can have a formidable ripple effect to create a better world by 2030. On this International Day of the Girl, join people around the globe in highlighting the unique challenges and potential of adolescent girls. (https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/international-day-girl-child-2017/)
I share this with you because I wish to focus this message on a woman in our diocese who passed away a week ago. She was once a girl who was fortunate enough to be born into a family living in Australia, and who valued education and her right to seek that education, to work professionally and to be the best person she could be. In having all that available to her as a girl, she made a difference to our world, and certainly to our Catholic Church, as well as her family and local community.
Beverley Hincks, affectionately known as Bev, worked alongside her husband Kevin in the areas of Ecumenism, Interfaith Relations and Interchurch Families. Not only did she do this in our diocese, but she did it across Australia and the globe. What I will share with you about Bev, is what I recall her telling me as she reminisced on her long and good life − she would often say; “I have had such a good life.” She was proud of her heritage, of being an Australian, of being married to Kevin, of being a mum and grandmother and of being herself. She glowed with the joy of life and of living.
She was indeed a woman before her time. During the 1950s she studied Metallurgy at the Newcastle Technical College and took up a position at Rylands Brothers Wire Mills in the laboratory, as a trainee metallurgist. She spoke of working with my Dad during that time, and the admiration she had for him and those who worked with her there. According to Bev, she was the only woman in the Chemistry class at that time. At some stage during her life she found herself working as a Chemistry teacher at Hamilton Marist Brothers, a job she loved. But this is not all that she will be remembered for.
When I began working in the diocese in 2005, Bev was a critical part of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Council. She had been on this Council for a long time and continued on the Council until her health began to fail about two years ago. She loved her ecumenical life and devoted much of her time to pursuing the common beliefs and practices which many Christians share. Her husband Kevin, an Anglican, shared her love of the ecumenical movement and has given equally of his time and energy in pursuing the same dream. Bev’s attendance at the World Council of Churches in Canberra in 1991 led to the formation of Action of Churches Together in Solidarity in Newcastle. Bev also served on the NSW Ecumenical Council Executive for 13 years.
They would have been married at a time when ‘mixed marriages’ were frowned upon, and yet married they were, and they went on to have a family of four who grew up with both parents practising their respective Christian faiths. This is where their joint love of being part of the global Interchurch Families International Network took flight. They travelled the world, attending conferences and ensuring that they were part of the growing understanding that there are committed couples of different Christian or faith backgrounds who need the support of each other, of other families and of their respective churches so they can live their faith lives respectfully.
Bev and Kevin were highly regarded in this International Network and knew many interchurch families from around the world. Bev was great at corresponding and by courtesy of our technological age would communicate with people, and when they visited Australia, would share their home with them. She was also able to keep abreast of what was happening in the ecumenical, interfaith and interchurch family space. Kevin and Bev attended meetings of Interchurch Families in Geneva in 1998 and in Edmonton in 2001, and helped organise a similar gathering in Newcastle in 2005.
Bev was also actively engaged in the diocesan contact group for the Council for Australian Catholic Women (CACW).
Bev ensured that this activity was backed up by study, learning, training and formation. She acquired a theology degree in the 1990s and was keen for others to be involved in formal and informal education and training. She never tired of reading, learning and sharing her knowledge and wisdom.
I have been blessed to be in ministry with, and minister to, many amazing older faith-filled women whom I hold as role models, as to what is possible if you let the Spirit in and courageously follow Jesus’ call to be a disciple. These strong, yet gentle, women who were once girls in a different age, demonstrate to me a resilience and courage to be the persons God created them to be. As a woman, I still need these strong, dedicated role models and so I can only imagine how important and significant it is for girls to look up to older women around them – their mums, grandmothers, aunties, neighbours, teachers, women in sport, church women, women leaders etc. Who are you mentoring and being a role model to in our troubled world?
I will miss Bev’s presence but will hold her warmly because she has helped form me and she has loved me.
I finish this week’s message with the second reading from Sunday (Paul to the Philippians 4:6-9) because it spoke to me of Bev:
There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus. Finally, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise. Keep doing all things that you learnt from me and have been taught by me and have heard or seen that I do. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Bev is now in the arms of her God of peace, in whom she is no doubt resting peacefully.