The Xavier Centre for Theological Formation hosted a panel forum on ‘Women and Leadership in the Church’ to celebrate the launch of the second Catholic Women Speak book entitled Visions and Vocations at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) Leadership Centre in Brisbane last week.
More than 100 people attended the public meeting which provided a space for theologically informed discussion about women in leadership in ecclesial communities and organisations.
The forum explored how the formation of women for leadership roles in the Church can be supported and examined topics such as what should the Church look like in the future; What does leadership imply; What needs to change; and how does the role of women need to evolve to make this happen?
Panel members included the Director of the Office for the Participation of Women and Director of Lay Pastoral Ministry at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Andrea Dean, EY Partner and Oceania Health and Life Sciences Leader, Jenny Parker, ACU Associate Vice-Chancellor (Queensland) Professor Jim Nyland, and Director of the Xavier Centre for Theological Formation Dr Maeve Heaney VDMF.
Dr Heaney said it was a good time to talk about women’s leadership in the church from a theological perspective, as the Pope has called pastors and theologians to reflect upon “the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life”, Evangelii Gaudium 104.
“The aim is a thoughtful, inclusive, perhaps challenging but essential conversation around women’s presence in leadership in ecclesial circles that might help shape a way forward in our journey towards the 2020 Plenary Council in the awareness that we belong to one another. We are members of one another,” Dr Heaney said.
“Our Ecclesiology is one of a structured communion, founded on our Baptism, with a diversity of charisms and ministries given for the life of the whole: these include a sound, for us sacramental, leadership.”
“Do we not need more research into a theology of ministries that could include, validate and enable a sharing of these charisms?”
Professor Nyland said the forum provided a space for grounded theological dialogue on a topic that has often inspired debate within ecclesial communities and organisations.
“Importantly, this innovative program creates a new space for conversations to take place about women in leadership in ecclesial communities and organisations,” Professor Nyland said.
“It gives participants the opportunity to engage with the latest ideas and strategies designed to effectively support the presence and formation of women for leadership roles in the Church and where the ecclesial and corporate worlds collide.”
“We are incredibly proud of this program and our ambition is that it will become one of our flagship leadership courses that will have local and global impact.”
The Xavier Centre for Theological Formation offers theological formation opportunities for lay persons, religious and clergy across Australia. Opportunities include short courses, in-service programs, forums and international study tours, as well as professional doctorates and research degrees.
With thanks to ACU.