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Women's Commission looks to future lay leadership

The Commission for Australian Catholic Women (CACW) has described the movement from religious and clerical leadership of Church agencies towards lay leadership - especially female lay leadership - as "of enormous importance".

Online Catholics reports that CACW is strongly encouraging women who are the heads of Church agencies to attend an inaugural conference of women in significant positions of leadership in the Catholic Church, set to take place in Cairns next April.

The conference is sponsored jointly by the Diocese of Cairns and CACW. Announced this week, it was the initiative of Diocesan CEO of Catholic Schools Ms Carmel Ross.

"In recent years, more and more of the Diocesan and National Executive Officers of Catholic Education, Centacare, Catholic hospitals and aged care facilities, and other works and agencies of the Church are lay men and women," said CACW Executive Officer Therese Vassarotti (pictured).

Ms Vassarotti said that while religious and clerics in leadership positions have had considerable ongoing religious and spiritual formation, this is rarely the case for lay leaders.

"The need to provide formation opportunities for them as leaders of Catholic Church agencies is therefore urgent," she said.

The conference will provide opportunities for networking and information exchange. It will also include exploration of spiritual traditions, such as those of Theresa of Avila and St Ignatius. There will be an induction into the mysteries of Canon Law.

Yesterday's Online Catholics report says research from overseas shows that women in leadership positions also contribute to organisational change. A study conducted by Boston College in 2002 found that lay women tend to see themselves as "outsiders" when they first enter organisations which have excluded women for much of their history. This 'outsider' status sensitises them to inequity, contradiction and patterns that may be difficult for established insiders to see.

Entitled With Faith, Hope and Love - A Conference for Women Serving as Leaders of Catholic Church Agencies is open to women working as heads of agency and their deputies within their own diocese, or at a state or national level, or who report in their professional work directly to a diocesan Bishop, Council, or Commission.

Cairns, CACW looks to future Church leadership (Online Catholics 17/11/04)

Catholic Education Office, Diocese of Cairns
Commission for Australian Catholic Women | National Women Leaders Conference - 2005

18 Nov 2004