By Debra Vermeer
A new mentoring program, aimed at helping to build the skills and faith of Australian Catholic women so they can have a positive impact in both the Church and wider society, is set to be launched in May.
The Australian Catholic Women’s Mentoring Program is the initiative of Christine Pace and other members of the Young Catholic Women’s Interfaith Fellowship for 2015/16.
It will be launched on Saturday, May 20 during the group’s final residential gathering at Mary MacKillop Place, North Sydney. Senator Deborah O’Neill will be guest speaker.
Christine says the idea for the mentoring program sprang, in part, from the conversations at the last Catholic Women’s Colloquium.
“At the Colloquium, a lot of women were talking about the need for women to get together and support themselves and organise themselves to have an impact in the Church,” she says.
“And as I thought about that, I thought the answer to that is a mentoring program, which would provide a structured way for women to get together in faith and grow in confidence and skills in whatever area they are in.”
The mentoring program also fulfils a requirement of the Young Women’s Fellowship for participants to come up with a project at the end of the two-year Fellowship.
“So, for the project component, our cohort has split into two groups and one group is developing an Interfaith Resource and the other group is working on this mentoring program,” Christine says.
“I think mentoring is useful for both men and women, whether it be in their career or some other aspect of their life, but it can be particularly valuable for women, because women can sometimes doubt themselves, and mentoring can play an important role in boosting confidence.”
Christine, who works in Communications and Marketing at Our Lady of Mercy College (OLMC), Parramatta, is no stranger to the concept of mentoring, having benefited from it herself. She has also established a mentoring program for OLMC alumni.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have two work-related mentors – one through a professional association that I belong to and one through workplace connections,” she says.
“Those mentors are more senior than I am and have a lot more experience and it’s really great being able to talk to someone at a higher level who validates your ideas and encourages you.”
The Australian Catholic Women’s Mentoring Program will run under the auspices of the National Office for the Participation of Women, a body of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
Sign-up forms are already available on the OPW website.
“Women will be able to sign up for a faith mentor or a career mentor and they’ll be matched up with a woman of similar skills or interest and locality (where possible). Then, they can chose how best to connect based on their lifestyle situations for example meeting up in person, phone conversations, email and so forth.”
Eventually, Christine hopes to start a newsletter with a women’s mentoring slant, as well as host networking events.
“The great thing about this mentoring program is that it will be structured around our faith and it will encourage women in their faith, as well as in their career and networking,” she says.
“The mentors that we hope to attract will be successful Catholic women in a range of different fields and it will be such a good thing to expose young women to their example and their wisdom.”
Christine, who took part in last year’s World Youth Day pilgrimage to Krakow via the Holy Land, with the Diocese of Broken Bay, has experience in bringing Catholic people together to share their faith, having previously organised a successful social drinks event for young Catholics, which ran for a few years.
“As a young Catholic myself, I didn’t find many opportunities to meet other people my age who were living out their faith, so I just set up a Facebook Event inviting young Catholics to meet for a drink in the city on a Friday night,” she says.
“It was an opportunity to meet people and to encourage people in their faith, and it really took off.
“The big thing is that you want to know that there are other people out there like you, staying true to their faith and doing different things in the world.
“I get such joy from bringing people together. And if that’s a gift that I have, then why not use it?”
Christine says that while the Australian Catholic Women’s Mentoring Program will start small, she hopes it will find its place within the Church.
“My hope for it is that it will evolve and grow and become well known so that women can access it,” she says. “It’s just about women supporting women in their life and faith, and hopefully that in itself will have a positive impact on the Church and society.”