New-look Young Catholic Women’s Interfaith Fellowship underway

Fellowship participant

Media Release, 26 February, 2012

Seventeen women from right across Australia have embarked on a journey of faith and leadership development as they take up the new-look Young Catholic Women’s Interfaith Fellowship.

The Fellowship, which has been relaunched with a new structure this year, will see the women, from 12 dioceses, undertake a formation program which includes theological studies, interfaith engagement and leadership development.

It is a project of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and is being sponsored by various religious congregations, institutions and Church agencies. For the first time, the academic component of the Fellowship will be undertaken through The Broken Bay Institute (BBI).

Chairman of the ACBC Commission for Church Ministry, Bishop David Walker, said the Fellowship, which first began in 2006, acknowledged and supported the essential place of women in the Church and the important role they can play in interfaith relations.

“The Young Catholic Women’s Fellowship has an outstanding history of forming women to take on leadership roles within the Church in many different areas,” Bishop Walker said. “It is our hope that these 17 women will graduate having learnt more about their own faith, about engaging with people of other faiths and about sharing their knowledge and insights with others through leadership.”

Over the next two years, the women will study to complete a Graduate Certificate in Theology through BBI. The flexible online delivery of study modules is designed to accommodate busy lives and careers.

“BBI is delighted to be a part of the Fellowship and to offer our experience and expertise in providing theological online and distance education to serve the Church in this way,” said BBI Director, Dr Gerard Goldman.

Participants of fellowship learning about the structure of the Church with Sr Elizabeth Delaney SGS

The academic program will be enhanced by a residential component so that the participants will have opportunities to engage as a group in prayer, meditation, reflection and personal growth.

Director of the Office for the Participation of Women, Donella Johnston, said the generous cooperation of many Church groups and organisations had enabled the Fellowship to evolve into this dynamic and inclusive format.

“As well as financial support from sponsors, the participants benefit from the flexibility of their employers and the substantial backing of their families,” she said. “Over the two years, they will travel to Sydney five times. The participants themselves will contribute a great deal of time, energy and creativity to making the Fellowship a life-changing and life-enhancing experience.”

The Fellowship participants have just returned to their home diocese following the first of the residential weekends at the Good Samaritan Sisters’ Mount St Benedict Centre, Pennant Hills and BBI.

Natasha Free, a primary school teacher, wife and mum of two, from Whyalla in Port Pirie Diocese, said that already the Fellowship was having a positive impact on her life.

“It’s just such an amazing opportunity, and I’m really grateful for it,” she said. “Already, I feel really confident and at home with this fabulous group of people. I’m looking forward to getting a deeper understanding of my own faith, spiritually and academically and learning from others.”

For more information contact Andrea Dean on 0487 388 873.