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Warm welcome for fearless speaker


More than 600 people converged on the Adelaide Town Hall to hear Sr Joan Chittister OSB deliver the Janette Gray Memorial Lecture on May 19. A member of the organising committee, Mercy Sister MARY-ANNE DUIGAN reflects on the event.

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Sr Joan Chittister is well known to many through her writings, which include 60 publications, and people came to the Janette Gray Memorial Lecture with a great sense of anticipation – and they were not disappointed. Those who didn’t know her were swept up by the positive ‘vibe’ as the People of God of South Australia, and beyond, gathered with great excitement.

Sr Joan was introduced by Sr Kathleen Williams, a Sister of Mercy who was not only a friend of Sr Janette but also the first chairperson of the Janette Gray RSM Scholarship Fund, established to support young women to obtain a PhD in their Theological Studies.

Speaking for more than an hour, Sr Joan expounded on Fratelli Tutti, the recent encyclical of Pope Francis with its focus on the common good and our global home. She emphasised the 10 most important points that we need to take to heart, focusing on ways we can nurture the common good and practical aspects in the care of our global home.

At this moment the audience came alive as Sr Joan proceeded to point out that unless the issue of gender inequality is addressed immediately and effectively, the Church will not be able to speak with authority and integrity on broader issues of social justice.

To illustrate the imperative of women’s equality in the Church, Sr Joan used the image of a bird. She referred to the bird’s wings (allegorically) as male and female and that a bird needs its two wings to be able to fly safely and purposefully. Sr Joan said if the Church is to flourish, women must take up their power and their equality before God – who is Spirit not male. Passivity is not an option, she said.

Sr Janette’s brothers Chris and Martin Gray speaking with Sr Joan following the presentation.

At the conclusion of the evening Sr Joan received a warm and enthusiastic standing ovation, and was presented a thank you gift by Sr Maureen O’Connell OP.

Sr Joan’s vibrant and passionate style, the joie de vivre which she exudes and the energy with which she engaged the audience were aptly summed up later by one attendee.

‘What an amazing presentation,’ Yvonne McKernan wrote in an email to the organising committee. ‘I have always enjoyed reading what Joan has to say, but seeing and hearing her is quite something else. Her knowledge base, intellect, presentation skills and energy are phenomenal. I particularly enjoyed, and remain challenged by, her exposition of Fratelli Tutti.’

Those of us who knew Sr Janette Gray, know that she would have been overwhelmed to be honoured in such a way by her friend, Sr Joan Chittister.


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