Women are underrepresented in decision making roles in the Catholic Church in Australia, however, within the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle we have wonderful women influencing others and leading a number of our agencies and Catholic schools.
To celebrate the contribution of all women in our region, Aurora interviewed six inspiring women who hold leadership roles in the Diocese on what motivates them and what guidance they could offer to others.
Teresa Brierley - Director of Pastoral Ministries in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
What is your role and what does it involve?
My role is Director of Pastoral Ministries in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. I assist Bishop Bill in taking responsibility for the pastoral ministries of the diocese. There are people who minister along side of me either in paid or volunteer positions to enable the many pastoral initiatives of the diocese – Council for Mission; pastoral planning; Councils (Social Justice, Ecumenical and Interfaith, Faith Formation, Liturgy and Diocesan Council of Ministry with Young People); Chaplaincies (university, port, hospital, prison, sport); connecting with families via the Family Ministry Coordinators, Marriage and Relationship Education, Special Religious Education and Sacraments of Initiation; as well as connecting with the wider Catholic community who minister within the diocese (Calvary Mater, SVDP, Caritas, Catholic Mission). There is an attempt to have all of these ministries connect with the life of parishes.
Does faith influence the way you lead in the diocese? If so, how?
Faith is at the very core or essence of why and how I lead in the diocese. My role would not make sense to me or to those with whom I minister with and to if I was not a person who held a very strong and personal faith commitment. Encountering Jesus daily in the people I meet, in prayer and reflection and in my daily tasks is essential to be an authentic leader in the Catholic Church and indeed in the wider community.
Why do you think it is important to have women in leadership roles?
God created male and female. Both lead to a balance in families, society, workplaces and the church. Both voices need to be respected, as different aspects of being and deciding are essential for good governance and decision-making. When one gender dominates, the gift of balance and harmony is diminished. Styles of leadership will vary between the genders but this difference contributes to the holistic nature that organisations require for optimal functioning.
What would you say to women wanting to be leaders?
Be true to who you are and help others become their best selves. Explore your dreams, skills and talents and work out where they can be best utilised. Love what you do and aim for excellence in whatever field of life you are living.
The theme for International Women’s Day is ‘balance for better’. What does this mean to you?
As humans we have many aspects to being human – physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, psychological. You should not ignore any of those parts of who you are to be fully human. It is important to ensure that all aspects of who you are in harmony or in balance.
Do you have a female role model? If so, can you please share with us what about them inspires you?
I have often looked up to women who are just that generation above me and have therefore chosen a number of them to be role models. They show me how to be and to achieve the most from the life I am living. Therefore, I do not have one female role model but look to the next generation of women leaders, good women who inspire me and whose characteristics I would like to emulate or alternatively whose characteristics I find to be most challenging, and therefore do not wish to follow.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I would have to say being given the privilege of being a mother. It has shaped me more than any other ‘profession’. However, I have been a mother, with the support of my husband, while pursuing many professions. I believe my vocations as a wife, mother and in ministry have created for me a sense of wholeness, purpose and maybe holiness. I hope I have used the gifts given to me by our good and gracious creator to accomplish more than I could have ever imagined if I had done it alone.
On a more practical level, I once purchased a railway carriage, had it transported to a school and converted it into a chapel. That was a great project!!
* According to a January 2018 study by Business Council of Australia, McKinsey & Company and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.