Inaugurating the Magdalene Award

“We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church….This presents a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who are in a position to recognise more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.”

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, n103/104.

With Pope Francis’ words resonating through the minds of members of the diocesan contact group for the Council for Australian Catholic Women (CACW), the inaugural Magdalene Award was conceived.  The brief was to recognise a woman who is an active member of her parish community and has made a positive contribution within the diocese to one or more areas of decision-making, leadership, active service and lay pastoral ministry.

A special award called for a special trophy. Master blacksmith Will Maguire created an evocative figure of steel and stone, a woman standing tall with wide open arms. The figure has an abject beauty, inviting contemplation and quiet reflection. According to Will, the uncomfortable stance also alluded to “the difficult history and contemporary issue of women’s recognition in the church”.

Following Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral with Bishop Bill as presider on International Women’s Day, the Toohey Room was filled with friends and family of the 25 nominees. Each is living her life in ways that reflect the gospel values of mercy, peace, justice and compassion.

Bishop Bill offered his congratulations to all candidates, adding that he did not envy the judges as the gifts and talents of these women were so diverse it was like “comparing apples with harbour bridges!”

And the inaugural winner is Rutherford’s Margo Nancarrow. After a lifetime of service to the church, in liturgy, schools, Special Religious Education and membership of various councils and groups, Margo accepted the award to great applause. “This is indeed an honour and I am deeply humbled and appreciative that a lifelong commitment to working for my Church and for the advancement of women was recognised. The theme of this year, ‘Be Bold for Change’, should resonate for us all.”

Nominations are open for the Magdalene Award 2018! Phone Ellen Hazelton 0407 513 813.

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.