The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.” The day began with the celebration of Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral at 9:30am. Following Mass a pleasing crowd of women, men and children enjoyed morning tea and listened to Rev Christine Sheppard OAM share some of her life experiences.
In her introduction and welcome to the morning Patricia Banister, past member of the Council for Australian Catholic Women and co-ordinator of the local contact group for CACW, offered these words from Donella Johnston, Director of the Office for the Participation of Women, from a recent press release.
“It is important that the rights and dignity of women are respected and that the vast contribution of women within the Catholic Church is acknowledged and celebrated.”
Reverend Christine Sheppard OAM is a Uniting Church Minister and in 1987 was the first woman ordained in the Uniting Church in the Hunter Region. Following three years of ministry at Raymond Terrace, Reverend Christine began her mission with the Hunter New England Mental Health Service and at that time was the only Chaplain of any denomination working in mental health in the Hunter. Reverend Christine says “I met amazing people in mental health – people with varying ways of sharing their spiritual journeys. Women whose mental illness had left them often shunned by their own children – but who were faith-filled women.”
She also spoke of being in awe of Catholic women! People like Dorothy Day the American activist, Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, the women in parishes who serve our communities and the woman at the well who meets Jesus, alone in the heat of the day.
Reverend Christine tied all this together with her long loved and lived remembrance of Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman!” It captured the spirit of the time and I sense it might remain of particular significance in her life even now.