Country Women Gather in Parkes
Maureen Salmon gives a report on the 2019 Rural School of Faith Leadership which she attended recently as the representative of the Sisters of St Joseph of Lochinvar.
The Bushman’s Motor Inn in Parkes was the venue for Stage 3 of the current series of the Rural School of Faith Leadership from 5th to 7th April. The nineteen women who gathered with the presenters, masseurs and members of the organising committee were eager to renew the friendships formed at the two preceding schools. This 2019 school completed the third series of Rural Schools, each of which was composed of a weekend over three years. The first of the Rural Schools was held in Dubbo in 2010.
The purpose of the 2019 Rural School was to offer women in rural and remote communities the chance to develop their understanding of our Baptismal call to be joyful missionary disciples, as encouraged Pope Francis, in their own situation. For the Josephite Sisters, the Rural School is one way of expressing our commitment to be with rural families and communities in the face of having to withdraw from a number of our country communities.
The organising committee is composed of three Sisters of St Joseph and four women who have completed a full series of the Rural School and come from Ardlethan, Mudgee, Tullamore and St George (just over the border in Queensland).
The women mostly came from the diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes, the vast diocese that is roughly half the state in area. They came from Walgett, Dubbo, Brewarrina, Trundle, Wellington, Parkes, Collarenebri, Temora and Forbes. Others beyond the diocese came from Mudgee, Ariah Park, Mirrool and Perthville.
One of the highlights of the weekend is always the sharing of experiences. This year two of the women spoke about their travels: Stella to the Holy Land and Jordon and Therese to Kenya for the ordination of a local man for the Wilcannia- Forbes diocese. What diverse, yet memorable destinations!!
Sr Virginia Bourke rsj was the main presenter and her sessions entitled Never Dry developed the idea that we never dry off from the waters of Baptism. This has implications for the way we live our lives, personally and in community. Another session by two members of the organising committee who come from small communities, shared how to conduct a Liturgy of the Word with Communion on Sundays when no priest is available to preside in their communities. A very different segment was provided by a group of Indigenous women from Walgett who played a video showing a timeline of the efforts of the Aboriginal people, over many years to gain recognition in our Constitution. All were moved by the presentation and left with a desire to see real and lasting change in our society regarding our First Peoples.
The weekend finished with a Closing Ritual where the women were presented with certificates of achievement and missioned to go forth to live as joyful missionary disciples.
I will leave the conclusion to three women who travelled home together. They wrote: The presentations, along with the input of all the women attending the school, provided us with a wonderful space to learn and discuss some of the most pressing issues facing our Church at present. We have come away with a renewed sense of our identity as Catholic women and, most importantly, the Body of Christ itself.