Magdalene maintains focus on leadership roles for women

The themes for the 2020 Plenary Council were released recently and it was interesting to note one of the recurring comments was to include women in the leadership of the Church. Here in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle we are keen to acknowledge the role women play in their parish, and beyond, via the presentation of the annual Magdalene Award.

Now in its fourth year, the Magdalene Award was conceived as a result of the report, Listening to Local Women, which recommended the establishment of an annual award to recognise local women who demonstrate leadership in the life of the Church. The inaugural winner was Margo Nancarrow, and subsequent winners were Claire McWilliam and Lidy Waanders.

Perhaps we are slow learners in the Church.  Back in 1996, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) launched a major research initiative focusing on the participation of women in the Catholic Church. 


Cardinal Clancy launched the research project with these words: “We know that the church as a whole has much to learn from and about women, who constitute more than half of its membership … We know that their contribution over the centuries and today has been (and is) enormous, even if not fully recognised and valued.


“We are also aware, as Pope John Paul II has acknowledged, that the church’s history has often been characterised by mistaken attitudes and actions in this as in other areas; and that the brief period between now and the church’s Year of Jubilee (AD 2000) is an appropriate time for us to acknowledge, repent for and begin to remedy the mistakes of the past.”


Following on from the research project was the ACBC’s Social Justice Statement 2000, Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus. A Maitland-Newcastle Diocesan Pastoral Council subcommittee response to the statement recommended “it should be recognised that women are able to exert influence, guidance and direction at all levels of the church. Formation, training and support for such leadership are seen as important facets in this process.”

In a recent article in The Good Oil (October 2019) Clare Condon SGS expressed her hope for a better future.

“The role of women within the Australian Catholic Church has been a constant and fraught issue for well over 20 years,” she said. However, Sr Clare added there is a strong “desire for women to continue to gather together and take responsibility for their own faith journeys, responding positively to each other’s needs and aspirations, whatever their particular situation”.

Therefore, it is vital for parishes and agencies within the Diocese to nominate a woman who demonstrates commitment to her parish community; promotes leadership and/or decision-making capabilities and who ministers in the parish or diocesan community. Women make a difference and we need to share their gifts and talents so others can see that their role is also significant. It’s no longer 1996 so let’s work together to make the Magdalene Award of 2020 a real celebration of women in our Diocese.

Nominate someone here.

Follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Helene O'Neill Image
Helene O'Neill

Helene O'Neill is the Parish-Family Liaison Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

Other Aurora Issues