By Olivia Bunter
The Sisters of Life have last week led a celebration of female identity for women at Newman Siena Centre on Saturday 25 May.
The Sisters visit to Perth was hosted by the University of Notre Dame Australia in collaboration with the Centre for Life, Marriage and Family (formerly Catholic Marriage and Fertility Services and The Respect Life Office).
The “Feminine Genius Brunch” attracted some 200 female attendees of all ages to engage in conversation about the identity of women.
A thoughtful, reflective talk was given by Sister Antoniana Maria SV, who identified the distinctive capacity of women through their feminine genius; a term originally coined by Saint John Paul II.
The term, Sr Antoniana Maria explained, ultimately speaks to a woman’s capacity to make room for “the other”.
“Pope John Paul II placed value on the life-bearing quality of the feminine genius,” she said.
“He recognised the crucial role women play in humanising society and restoring a culture of life and love.
“‘Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts,’ St JPII said. ‘They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them’.”
Originally from Winnipeg Canada, Sr Antoniana Maria graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of British Columbia, Canada, before joining the Sisters of Life, who are based in Manhattan, New York City, in 2002.
She is currently the Superior of the motherhouse, having self-professed passion for the dignity of every human person.
The Sisters of Life provide pregnant women refuge at their convent in Manhattan, which aids their mission of promoting a culture of life based on the sacred dignity and uniqueness of human life.
“Despite the difficulties and struggles of an unexpected pregnancy, each woman has experienced her own life as a gift and then accepted this new life within her as a blessing,” Sr Antoniana Maria said.
The Sisters offered her insight to the distraction of the current media-saturated culture in which society is bombarded with; offering the public images and messages, telling us who we should be and what we need to be happy.
“It is easy to lose sight of what we are made for,” she said. “Cardinal Sarah refers to it as the ‘dictatorship of noise’.
“We can spend a lifetime chasing after success and achievement, trying hard to look good and play the part; but underneath the surface, beyond the laughter and fleeting pleasures, if we pause in silence reflect, I would guess that some of us may feel terribly insecure, restless, empty and alone – longing for so much more.”
Sr Antoniana Maria closed with a word from Pope Paul VI, who was canonised a saint October 2018, in his closing message to women after Vatican II ended.
“Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.”