Women Still Listening to the Spirit, 20 years later

Launching the new book Still Listening to the Spirit, from left, Bishop Vincent Long, book editors Andrea Dean and Sandie Cornish, and Archbishop Christopher Prowse

Two decades since the publication of the document Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus, the Australian bishops concede there is “unfinished business” in promoting women’s participation in the Church.

Published in 1999, Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus arose from a collaboration between the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (now Catholic Religious Australia) and the Australian Catholic University.It employed a variety of research approaches. It also resulted in a Social Justice Sunday Statement – Woman and Man: the Bishops Respond – published in 2000.

To mark the 20th anniversary of Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus, the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry and the Bishops Commission for Social Justice agreed to revisit the earlier document and assess what progress had been made.

The chairs of those commissions – Archbishop Christopher Prowse and Bishop Vincent Long van Nguyen OFM Conv – wrote the foreword to the new publication, Still Listening to the Spirit: Woman and Man 20 Years On.

“A further 20 years down the track, women are still listening to the Spirit and seeking to engage the whole Church in a conversation about a more fulsome development of the participation of women in the Church, for the sake of us all and for the sake of the Reign of God,” the bishops wrote.

“There is unfinished business from the action commitments made by the bishops in 2000. There is also an opportunity to contribute to the communal discernment process of the Plenary Council 2020. This collection of essays engages creatively with both of these elements of the present moment.”

Still Listening to the Spirit was launched on November 28 at the Plenary Meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

The book provides a series of snapshots into the lives of Australian Catholic women in 2019. Some essays reference the findings of the 1995-99 research project or the subsequent Social Justice Statement for 2000. Others provide a theological reflection on contemporary dimensions of women’s lives or issues of significance. Several essays emerged from the Triennial Colloquium hosted by the Council for Australian Catholic Women in Adelaide in February 2019.

“Every essay contributes to creating a range of opportunities in the Church for respectful listening and dialogue concerning the experiences, needs and aspirations of women,” wrote Andrea Dean, director of the Church’s Office for the Participation of Women and one of the book’s editors.

The book’s other editor, Sandie Cornish, said many of the major themes considered in Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus “remain live and contentious”.

“While there have been advances in some areas, little seems to have changed in others, and in some matters, things seem to have gone backwards,” she wrote.

“Despite disappointments and difficult experiences, the contributors to this collection are still listening to the Spirit and waiting for the opportunity to participate in a full and conscious way in the life of the Church for the sake of God’s Reign.”

Still Listening to the Spirit can be purchased from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s website and on a number of digital publishing platforms.

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