THE POWER OF NUN: The infinite ways women have made a difference

THREE OF THE BEST: Sister Mary explores the significance of International Women’s Day, Harmony Day, and Catholic Schools Week. Photo: FILE PHOTO
THREE OF THE BEST: Sister Mary explores the significance of International Women’s Day, Harmony Day, and Catholic Schools Week. Photo: FILE PHOTO

There were three significant events on my calendar this week, and I began by wondering which of the three should gain my fullest attention for this column.

After some due consideration I became aware of the strong links that weave in and out of all three.

International Women’s Day is celebrated on Friday, Harmony Day on Saturday, and Catholic Schools Week is now coming to a close.

It’s like a beautiful tapestry where each of the threads contributes to the beauty of the whole, but looked at on its own it can’t portray the whole scene.

Sadly, across the world, there are many women living and working in conditions of slavery and subjugation that severely limit their humanity.

As human beings, we agree, at least in principle, that men and women are equal.

Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go before that equality becomes a reality.

Even in situations where both men and women are doing equal work, it seems that equal pay is still a pipe dream for many women.

Harmony Day is not, of course, just focused on women, but its strong emphasis on recognising, accepting, and celebrating so many different cultures and histories, and the strong involvement of women in both contributing to and conducting the event ties in very well.

As a musician, the word “harmony” is of great importance to me.

It does not suggest the absence of discord, but the appropriate resolution of the differences so as to enhance and beautify the composition.

Our Australian society is becoming more and more multicultural as the years go by.

This can enrich the harmony of our nation, or give rise to unresolved differences and lack of mutual respect.

With Catholic Schools Week coming to a close, it’s yet another opportunity to look at the contribution that women have made – and continue to make – within the education system.

Well before it was common practice for women to engage in full-time employment, our Catholic Schools were staffed by religious women and men: Nuns and Brothers.

Back in 1866 the first Sisters of Mercy (founded in Dublin in 1831 by Venerable Catherine McAuley) came to Bathurst and got involved in teaching at the invitation of the Bishop.

It was 1878 when the first of these Sisters came to live and teach in Orange.

The Sisters of St Joseph (Founded by St Mary McKillop, Australia’s first Saint, at Penola in South Australia in 1866) also have a long tradition of living and teaching in the various schools of the Diocese.

Gradually, as opportunity offered, more and more lay staff came forward to teach in all our schools, and since last year when the last Mercy Sister retired from teaching they are now almost fully staffed by lay teachers, but the Sisters and Brothers from the schools are an integral part of their foundation and history.

Thankfully, we have women at all levels in the system from the heights of management to the newest graduates.

So it was possible to find the threads that weave within these three events, and give us a little bit of food for thought.

Sister Mary Trainor has been a Sister of Mercy for more than 60 years and has a passion for Orange and social justice issues. She writes ‘this column for the Central Western Daily each fortnight.

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