Pioneering Australian journalist Caroline Jones was a guest speaker at the very first Women’s Night of Spirituality in 1995, and was to be among those celebrating the anniversary. “The Committee was greatly saddened at Caroline Jones’ death last Friday. Our evening will now be dedicated to her memory”, said Committee Member, the Hon Jennifer Boland AM.
Jennifer shares how this event has provided a sanctuary for women – a place where they could gather to share stories and deepen relationships.
In 1995 at St Mary’s North Sydney a retreat was underway. Several women, in discussion with the late Fr Peter Quin SJ, suggested a night for women to share their stories with other women. And so, the Women’s Night of Spirituality was born.
From its very successful beginnings in 1995 – when the speakers were Professor Jenny Gribble, Caroline Jones and Geraldine Doogue – the annual even has seen wonderful and inspiring women participate each year till 2019, when COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the event.
After a few pandemic-related setbacks, this Tuesday 24 May 2022, the parish (now three communities known as Our Lady of the Way) will celebrate the 25th anniversary of this event.
The women who have participated include a former and the present Governor of NSW, as well as many other women prominent in public life, the arts, education, and charitable works. Others were not so well-known to the public, but had truly inspirational stories to share.
Women at these events have shared experiences including the trauma and sorrow of miscarriage, termination, physical disabilities and life-threatening illness, disabled children, sexual discrimination, poverty, incest, domestic violence and refugee status.
The women’s stories have been enhanced by wonderful musical performances, including in the last few years, the joyous voices of the St Mary’s Mother’s Choir and talented soloists.
Although in the early years generally only women came to the event, in more recent years the evening has attracted a number of men who have been warmly welcomed. Since the very beginning, the night has had the active support of the Jesuits and in recent years was wholeheartedly supported by Fr Daven Day SJ and Fr Michael Stoney SJ, and now the parish priest Fr Richard Leonard SJ.
This event has led many women, who have lost their connection with their faith, to reassess their attitudes and beliefs. The organising committee for this 25th Anniversary firmly believe the evening has an important role to play in women’s spiritual lives and fosters the Ignatian tradition of discernment.
The Hon Jennifer Boland AM
Feature photo by Eddie Wingertsahn on Unsplash.