Let Us Remember the magazine of La Salle asks us to take the time to pause and add meaning to celebrating International Women’s Day.
This celebration is one for great cause for women all over the world to fully participate as equals in global development. The observance of International Women’s Day began as early as 1908 in America, with even earlier radical changes of the time with women in New Zealand becoming the first country in the world to vote in 1893. Withstanding all this and many achievements in between from women across political, we find ourselves in 2021 with the theme “Choose to Challenge”.
The invitation to stand in solidarity together and by association to promote gender equality and a more inclusive charism is part of the Lasallian dream to touch the hearts of one and all.
In my own personal reflection, navigating an ever-changing world as a woman can be a challenge in and of itself without choosing to challenge. Despite this, the opportunity to find joy in this journey called life is largely due to the gift of faith. One of my favourite depictions of faith in the scriptures is the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this account, we can learn so much from these strong icons of faith to help us more effectively ‘choose to challenge’. Like Mary who hastened to be by the side of her cousin Elizabeth, we can also hasten and devoting ourselves to creating equal voices for women in Lasallian communities throughout the world. Like Elizabeth, we can be faithful that change will come about out of challenges we face. The world is in need of women of faith as we make space at the table where decisions are being made for all women.
As we collectively raise our hands in solidarity this International Women’s Day, may we have the courage to open our hearts to the change. To help us evaluate where change can begin, we can start by asking ourselves:
• What are you doing in your communities to build up women of faith and action?
• What are you doing to build more inclusive communities?
• How can your teaching or association with others promote more inclusive pedagogy for greater participation from women?
• How can you encourage your students or those you entrusted to your care to be agents of equality in their communities?
Lord, make me an instrument of peace: Bless all women who daily strive to bring peace to their communities, their homes and their hearts. Give them strength to continue to turn swords into plowshares.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love: We pray for all women who face prejudice, inequality and gender disparities. Help us see and to face the discrimination against women in all the many forms it may take.
Where there is injury, pardon: Comfort all women who suffer from the pain of war, violence, and abuse. Help them to become instruments of their own reconciliation and peace.
Where there is division, unity: Forgive all women and men who let differences breed hate and discrimination. Let your example of valuing all of creation help us to see that we are equal partners in the stewardship of your world.
Where there is darkness, light; where there is untruth, truth: Comfort all women who struggle in the darkness of abuse, poverty, and loneliness. May we stand with them in light to acknowledge their suffering and strive to remove the burdens of shame or embarrassment.
Where there is doubt, true faith: We pray for all women who live in fear of their husbands, fathers, and forces that control their lives. Help them to be empowered to be their true selves through your everlasting love and faith.
Where there is despair, hope: We pray for all women who live in the despair of poverty, violence, trafficking, slavery, and abuse. May the light of your love bring them hope.
Where there is sadness, new joy: Help us to see the strength and goodness in all women and men. Transform our hearts to celebrate the love and grace of all people.
And may we be blessed with the courage of St Clare of Assisi to follow our own path of love for you and all sisters and brothers.
Prayer given by Deborah Hirt, Franciscans International, 2013
With thanks to Br David Hawke, Provincial of De La Salle District of Australia, New Zealand Pakistan and Papua New Guinea