Before the commencement of our Ash Wednesday liturgy this week, I reflected with the girls and staff on how our Year of Sincerity might shape our Lenten experience. Lent is an opportunity for us to reflect inward – to examine our thoughts, our words, our actions, our hearts – and to work towards a renewal of spirit and the creation of a new heart in all of us.
This season of Lent, I’ve decided to go with what I’m going to take up rather than give up. Denial – whether it be by ‘giving up’ or ‘taking up’ – will count little unless they are reminders to us of the need to deny ourselves (see Luke 9:23), helping to shift our attention away from self-centeredness and directing it towards the Lord and other people. This is a desire and pursuit we continue to work towards as we deepen our faith journey through the value of Sincerity this year.
Lent is not a season for us to be or to feel constricted, but rather it comes with great possibility as a season of grace; leading us out towards the light of Easter, the light of the Resurrection. As Catholic Christians we are driven forward by this light – while being inward looking during this season, we remain to be people who move forward towards the light and hope of Easter.
As you would know, today is International Women’s Day and I hope you’re enjoying the special purple feature of the newsletter this week. Not being satisfied with marking this on just one day, and knowing the importance of focusing our call to act for greater gender parity, this whole week has been a celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This week has been Supergirl Week at Loreto Normanhurst. A week where the Student Representative Council, led ably by our SRC and Communications Captain Breanna Ivankovic, reminded us daily of the power of being a girl – and that girls shouldn’t have to wait until they are adults to celebrate womanhood and the power of being female; they have the capacity to care and nurture and effect change at any age.
I include Mary Ward in my short list of super girls and women of influence, as I’m sure she is for many. Three women who were prominent in Mary Ward’s early life were strong women. Her grandmother and two women whose homes were part of Mary Ward’s childhood for many years were undeterred by setbacks they faced and placed their faith central to who they were. In fact, they were prepared to suffer for it and indeed were all imprisoned as a result. It was women who passed the Gospel to Mary Ward, thereby keeping the lineage of faith alive at a time when one was persecuted for your Catholic faith. We know how this influenced her and how her life continues to influence us, over 400 years later. How powerful that at the very beginnings of the life of a woman who would come to influence us so much, are women who knew deeply the interconnectedness of the human family; women who honoured the sacredness of the relational. Mary Ward’s deep belief that ‘women in time to come would do much’ was based on the firm conviction of this truth: that women are a reflection of the Glory of God and to deny this is to deny the full humanity of women everywhere, and therefore is not of God.
On Wednesday evening I could feel the force of the affective and relational power of women as the Curran Theatre filled for our special Women of Influence Evening. We were treated to some storytelling by four Loreto women who shared with us the influence their life is having on people, place and time. I sincerely thank Jennifer Hughes, ‘88, Robi Stanton, ‘89, Denise Cheng, ‘97 and Annika Stott, ’05 for sharing their stories and for the influence they are having on others in their everyday. It was very clear to hear how their Loreto Normanhurst education is influencing others. What stood out to me as the ‘golden thread’ running through the storytelling was that their days here at their beloved Normo gifted these women the opportunity to be themselves, and unapologetically so. I was moved by the ways in which this was expressed by our four ex-students and then echoed in action and words by our current students who led the evening’s proceedings and I thank School Captain Evie O’Brien, School Vice-Captain Anastasia Leaver, Boarding Captain Ella Anderson and Boarding Vice Captain Suzuki Yun for the gracious and intelligent way in which they ran the night.
It was extra special to have students and staff from Loreto Ballarat and Loreto Toorak, who were with us this week as part of the Mary Ward Connect experience, join us at the Women of Influence evening. How wonderful it is to be part of such a global circle of Mary Ward friends and to take the time as we did on Wednesday evening to celebrate the influence that Loreto women have in so many lives and fields.
Sport is one of those fields where structures limiting gender parity must be challenged. Sport at Loreto Normanhurst aims to build strong, resilient young women who are challenged and inspired to be healthy and motivated in movement and sport. Our girls have achieved wonderful success recently in IGSSA Softball, the NSW All Schools Triathlon, the Athletics NSW State Relay Championships, NSW Junior Athletics, IGSSA Swimming and Rowing. I would like to extend a special mention to the following students who have been named as state or national representatives in their chosen sport:
- Olivia Fanning, Year 11, will compete at the National Championships in July in the NSW U17s Indoor Cricket;
- Yasmin Say, Year 11, will compete in the Australasian U17 Badminton Championships in April;
- Sophie Dwyer, Year 12, has been selected for the NSW U19 State Netball Team and the NSW Waratahs for the Australian Netball League; and
- Juliet Lahood, Year 11, will compete at the Dutch and Belgium Taekwondo Open in Europe in March.
Well done to these girls and good luck for their upcoming competitions.
As I finish off this newsletter article I can hear from my office window the chatter and glee usually reserved for 3.15pm on a Friday as the girls head into the weekend. It’s a little earlier today, of course, with early dismissal allowing us to make final preparations for tomorrow’s Open Day. We are very much looking forward to opening our beautiful school to families who are looking for a Loreto education for their daughter. It is always a lovely day of community and I hope to see many of you here.
‘The world is calling for you, o woman
For you to expand your wings,
Release your real energy in the right direction,
The false pride of those who doubt your power will crumble,
The holy might within you is unparallel,
You are born with the ignited fire,
God has made you to come at the front,
And face the fears,
God wants you to bring about the change,
Let the power to grow and do the much needed changes,
Let this incredulous power manifest its magic!’
Loving God, we celebrate your faithfulness and love.
In this Supergirl Week and on this International Women’s Day,
we commit ourselves to the promotion of the full humanity of all women everywhere.
We know that whatever denies, diminishes, or distorts the full humanity of women is not of God.
Help us to be faithful to your call to love.
Ms Marina Ugonotti