Women Leading Change
It is of little surprise that congruence exists between MWIA’s revised Vision Statement, the 2021 United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day, and the priority theme for the 65th Commission on the Status of Women. It is humbling and gratifying that leadership is at the heart of all of these statements – a distinct approach to leadership is undoubtedly a defining mark of our Loreto foundress, Mary Ward.
Mary Ward’s leadership is worthy of deep reflection. Her style was utterly collaborative, contingent upon extraordinary communication skills and an ability to engage with people across all social, political and religious spectra. The ‘circle of friends’ or ‘open circle’ image (pictured to the right) denotes a complete sharing of power and openness to the voice of each co-leader, with their distinctive strengths and weaknesses, gifts, and styles. The gesticulating hands of all members of the open circle surely attest to some lively and animated discussion, debate and discernment! Mary’s concern for the well-being of her companions spread across war-ravaged Europe, and her encouragement for them to develop rich interior lives of prayer and reflection resonates with much contemporary commentary around mental and spiritual health and well-being.
In keeping with our 400-year tradition, the empowerment of women and calling forth of leaders is re-affirmed at the heart of Mary Ward International Australia’s new Strategic Plan. Across all MWIA enterprises, we delight in the leadership of, and partnership with all people, and are particularly proud of emerging leaders responding to the vision and mission of Mary Ward.
As Mary Ward’s early companions often toiled in isolation, Sr Ai-Thien leads a small team of creative educators in Gariuai, Timor-Leste, transforming the lives of children, their parents, and the local community. The Human Resources Manager at Loreto Rumbek, Priscilla, is thriving in her leadership role in an environment plagued by malaria, violence, the spectre of forced marriage, and lack of amenities that so many of us take for granted. As a Loreto Rumbek graduate with tertiary qualifications, Priscilla is an excellent role model for those who will follow in her footsteps.
In Sydney, our Communications Manager, Anna, is at the forefront of conversation and conveyance across the whole province network, and in India, Sr Shakuntala has taken on the leadership of the Darjeeling Mary Ward Social Centre.
At St Mary’s Hostel, Ho Chi Minh City, Sisters Hoa and Trang encourage young women in their tertiary studies in a family environment conducive to strengthening just relations, a disposition so important to Mary Ward.
With renewed focus, MWIA will continue to consider and imagine new ways to support young women exercising their leadership within their communities and across our global network.
Mary Ward led with vision, courage, commitment, hard work and trust in God. She built leadership capacity in her early companions through affirmation, challenge, honest conversations and a shared sense of mission. In the current climate of intense focus on women in the church, workplace, on the streets and COVID-19 world, we are strengthened and encouraged by the example of new leaders joining Mary Ward’s open circle as women of freedom, justice and integrity. May MWIA’s commitment to emerging leaders keep expanding this ever-widening circle!
Author: Anne Muirhead