Delegates and guests from the Lasallian Global Women's Symposium were given a whole-hearted welcome (haere mai) by the host country and friendly locals in Auckland, New Zealand 16-19, July. After an amazing display of culture and national pride, two women chanted Maori greetings at the opening ceremony and a group of Lasallian students performed the traditional 'haka' while delegates gathered in the foyer.
Symposium organiser, Trish Carroll, joined by the Symposium Steering Committee, CEO of yourtown, Tracy Adams, CEO of Lasallian Foundation, Miranda Chow, Assistant Director of Formation, Amanda Proulx, set the course for the Symposium which focused on the four following aims:
What are the current realities and experiences of Lasallian women?
How do we create opportunities to give voice to Lasallian women?
How do we foster global relationships?
Imagine the Institute in 20 years' time -what will the Lasallian women's vocation look like?
It was clear from early on, that significant conversations would occur over the next four days. In a room where women outnumbered the men, Brothers and Lay Partners were very much part of the dialogue. Superior General, Br Bob Schieler, Br Visitor, David Hawke, General Councillors Br Ricky Laguda, Br Rafa Matas, and Br Gustavo Ramirez, Br Ed Phelan, and Executive Director of the Lasallian Mission Council, Merv McCormack all took part.
Echoing the Symposium's theme: Women as change makers to our ongoing Lasallian story, Br David Hawke commenced? proceedings by stating; "That you all continue to be movers and shakers and change makers towards our Lasallian story and as I often like to say: no women, no mission."
With an understanding that concrete resolutions would be challenging to achieve at the Symposium, the focus was clear: How do we collectively move the Lasallian story forward on a global scale?
In his opening address, Superior General, Br Robert Schieler said; "It is your challenge and responsibility to describe the specific contribution of women to our common mission and to envision new and invigorating modes of participation. Your task is to help me and the rest of the Lasallian Family appreciate the 'women's perspective' and the experienced-based 'women's impact' that you contribute to Lasallian educational communities."
Always on point and an inspiration to many, Assistant Director of Formation and Steering Committee member, Amanda Proulx, shared her thoughts on what she wished delegates would take away; "I hope each and every one of you are able to gain a deeper sense of what it means to be a Lasallian."
After an introduction about the four significant women who helped to shape the history of the Lasallian story, Tracy Adams and Amanda Proulx presented delegates with some sobering world statistics involving women, such as; "35% of women have experienced physical or sexual abuse; two-thirds of the world's illiterate are women; two-thirds of the world's most disadvantaged are women; a woman dies every 90 seconds through childbirth/pregnancy complications. Thousands of women are annually murdered in honour killings; only 24% of business leaders are women. And in 195 countries, only 10 women are serving as Head of State".
Upon hearing statistics such as these, it would have been natural to feel somewhat helpless in creating any positive change, however, as part of the Lasallian Mission and the legacy of the Founder, there was a clear focus on education and care for the vulnerable and acknowledgement of the significant impact education has on the lives of children and families across the world. The delegates were already part of this positive change. They were, and have been, carrying out the work, and it was a timely reminder.
A child born to a mother who is able to read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five, to be immunised and to attend school. Wages, agricultural income, and productivity all critical for reducing poverty are higher where women who are involved in agriculture receive a better education. Each additional year of schooling beyond primary school offers greater payoffs for improved opportunities, options and outcomes.
The Symposium offered a variety of workshops and in-depth table discussions to unpack the many ideas and opinions. Delegates shared their personal stories within their present-day context, describing challenges and successes on the local level. This offered all delegates a chance to hear the different contexts and unique perspectives yet, all sharing common aspects regardless of the different locations.
The Symposium worked as a reminder that the Mission may be different in local contexts but the Mission is one and the same on a global scale. Discussions focused on ways in which change and evolution is always important within our realities and must continue for the future of the Mission. As Brother Ricky Laguda said; "Change always involves risk and uncertainty."
With 56% of the world's Lasallians being female partners, the importance of women to the Mission was obvious Circular 461 notes the contribution of Lasallian women in the Mission and specifically speaks of women's participation as 'essential'. Circular 470 encourages the promotion of new leadership among Brothers and Lasallians who will boldly and creatively respond to the Church of the 21st century.
On the fourth day, all delegates continued their table discussions and many of the attendees were positive that no one would return to their prospective homes without an action plan. All delegates were invited to reflect on the Symposium aims, to add input, and to seek consensus on specific resolutions.
It was decided that all Symposium outcomes would be formally prepared and submitted to the Brother Superior General and the General Council for consideration. Trish Carroll will conclude her role as Symposium organiser by preparing a formal report for the General Council.
In addition, Trish was honoured for her Lasallian commitment and zeal with appointment as an affiliated member of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. This is a century old tradition offered by the Institute for acknowledging the commitment and affiliation of lay people.
In his closing address, Br Bob concluded: "Do not look to Rome for the answers, do not wait for Rome for the answers. The answers are here in this room. We have the established structures in place brought about by the Brothers, but we need you. I need you to move this forward. I encourage you to be creative".
Between the realities of moving the Mission forward, delegates also enjoyed a trip to the Auckland Museum, an evening of entertainment from the Sweet Adeline quartet and an array of traditional dances from the Pacific region.
Upon conclusion but in some ways only marking the beginning, Br Bob Schieler added; "My heart is filled from what I have experienced over the past four days. This Symposium is a result of the great Lasallian Family."
A need to have an International steering committee or advisory group, with a true representation from all regions and Districts, cultures, ages and Ministries.
A true representation of the International Women's 'Council' with a Mission Statement and clear purpose statements by the end of 2017; an appointment of person(s) as a short-term bridge to effectively get this started in a timely manner and consider the potential use of secondment to utilise existing skills/experience.
Engagement with District/Regional groups that work with existing structures.
Ensure inclusivity and collective Lasallian voice, gender parity in leadership and representation with concrete policy. Be culturally sensitive.
Effectively communicate using both virtual and traditional means to inform, engage, and include ALL Lasallians.
Global, Regional and District mentoring program using a variety of structures (technology/face-to-face) tailored to meet the individual needs.
Engage the voice of students/clients/Young Lasallians immediately in Mission planning, as well as in the promotion of Lasallian vocation.
Create a database and directory for global connections.
We acknowledge the need to remain faithful to the Mission by bringing to life the commitments contained without our Lasallian documents.
The personal commitment of all delegates to share this experience, knowledge, and outcomes with their local Lasallian communities upon return.
Please keep an eye out for some amazing profiles of our Lasallian Women in up and coming publications and on the District website NewsBlog www.delasalle.org.au
Photo Gallery to come ***
Read Br Robert Schieler's Opening Address