I am conscious that this message will be read by most people on Tuesday 8 March, International Women’s Day. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias.

The website for International Women’s Day (www.internationalwomensday.com) asks us to:

Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

We are being asked to:

  • Celebrate women’s achievements
  • Raise awareness against bias
  • Take action for equality
  • Build workplaces where women can thrive
  • Elevate visibility of women creatives
  • Improve equality for women in tech
  • Forge women’s empowerment worldwide
  • Celebrate the women forging change
  • Empower women’s choices in health
  • Recognise women in sport

I invite you to go to website for further information and resources.

While being aware of this for us here in Australia and for parts of our world, I cannot help but visualise the present distressing images on our screens of the many women fleeing the violence in Ukraine with their families and some of their possessions. They are being protective of what they hold dearest – their lives and their relationships, while their material possessions and places of belonging are being left behind and destroyed.

Similarly, we are experiencing images of our own devastation from floods here in Australia. The heartache of losing your precious life’s story which is found in all that surrounds you – photos, memorabilia, homes that hold so many memories etc.

What I am left with is sitting in silence and in prayer. I feel a deep sense of powerlessness in not being able to change the situations for others, and a need to hand it over to our God who I believe is kind, merciful and compassionate. I also hold the images of the many hundreds or thousands of volunteers who are presently assisting those in need.

For me the weekend has been a busy one with us gathering and celebrating the following;

  • The LGBTIQ Mass
  • A Gathering at Holy Trinity Parish, Blackbutt North
  • Mass at the Cathedral for the First Sunday of Lent and International Women’s Day followed by morning tea and acknowledgement of the establishment of the Diocesan Council for Women
  • The Rite of Election of Catechumens at the Cathedral. There were eight who moved from being Catechumens to the Elect, in preparation for full reception into the Catholic Church at Easter

I am also conscious that on Tuesday night the Ecumenical and Interfaith Council have coordinated a virtual Sisters in Faith event, in which women from different faith backgrounds will share their time and stories.

In all of these opportunities, I go back to the Synod Papers of 2021 and recall the following Foundational Statements:

Identity and Community – We are a people who respect and support the diversity of roles and functions in the community, while maintaining the equality of each individual before God.

Worship and Prayer – We gather in community – to pray, to break open the Word, to celebrate, to encourage and support one another, to mourn our losses, to be nourished and strengthened for mission.

Formation and Education – We are nourished and inspired by formation that is scripturally rich and ecclesially grounded, and deepens our relationship with Jesus, the living Word of God.

Mission and Outreach – We regard every individual as having equal dignity and worth and because we believe the Spirit is at work throughout the world, we respect those whose beliefs differ from our own.

Leadership and Structure - We welcome Pope Francis’ insistent call for a synodal Church that involves the whole People of God in its life and mission.

And now this takes me to Sunday’s second reading from St Paul to the Romans (10:8-13) where he begins with these words:

Scripture says: The word, that is the faith we proclaim, is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart.

It then finishes with the following sentence:

When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask for his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

So, let’s use this time of Lent to seek out ways to be inclusive, to reach out and to call upon God who is our help, our strength and our salvation.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.