HAVING consulted the College of Consultors, His Grace Most Reverend…
International Women’s Day, held globally on Mar 8 each year, celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future. It is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women. The first IWD was held in 1911.
Opportunity is knocking
Catholic women of the archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu marked International Women’s Day, with a commendable one-day seminar which was organized by the Commission of Women of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu. Commendable precisely because it provides just the perfect opportunity to respond to Pope Francis’ invitation to enter into deeper reflection on the Apostolic Letter of Blessed John Paul II Mulieris Dignitatem on the occasion of the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the same document in Rome Oct 2013.
On that occasion, the Pontifical Council for the Laity chose the same theme “God entrusts the human race to the woman” which was also chosen for the IWD seminar in our local Church, whereby Pope Francis charged us all to ask in the Church: “What presence does women have?”, thus asking us to truly assess how much have we understood this “dignity and vocation of women” and what have we done to enhance this dignity and vocation.
The tri-lingual seminar began with the enthronement of the Word of God by Archbishop John Wong who set the tone by referring to the day’s liturgical reading that Jesus has come not for the righteous but for the sinner. He called on the participants to remain open and to acknowledge their sinfulness in order to receive from God who comes for the sinner.
Mulieris Dignitatem was first published in August 1988, a fruit of the Synod of the Laity, and was the first document of the magisterium entirely dedicated to the questions of women’s dignity and vocation.
Though a beautiful document by Blessed John Paull II, it is seen that still many do not fully accept and understand the important role of women in the Church and the world.
In the short span of a one-day seminar, the various speakers of the different languages made an attempt to bring the women participants to an awareness, an acceptance and an understanding of the true meaning of the dignity and vocation of women in the Church and in the world.
Anthony Lim and Fr Wilfred Atin drew some pertinent points from Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter, exhortations from Pope Francis and other relevant sources to assist the women in the English stream.
Revealed truths concerning man (mankind)
MD highlighted the truths about the equality, complementarity and communion between man and woman, and how this “original unity” was obscured and diminished by sin, and leading to the necessity of the role of Mother Mary (Proto-evangelium) to restore the dignity of women through “motherhood and virginity”, thus becoming the “model” and “exemplar” for all women as well as the whole human race.
The “Feminine Genius”
The Feminine Genius (so named by Bl John Paul II) is fully exemplified by Mary with her ‘fiat’ (yes) at the Annunciation and elevated man’s ‘union with God’ by receiving and nurturing the ‘Eternal Word of God’ (Jesus Christ) in her womb and bringing forth the Redeemer to the world.
So too, women in a sense, when open to receive the “word of the living God”, through the working of the Holy Spirit, would, through their receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, and maternity, become the channel to bring Jesus “the Incarnate Word”, the Savior of the world, into their marriages, their families, their homes, and the world at large, thus referring to Pope Paul VI’s address to women in the closing exhortation of the Second Vatican Council in December 1965: “…women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.”
Words of affirmation
Archbishop John Wong, in his address at the closing dinner, acknowledged the gift of women to the Church, and affirmed them of their special role given them by God.
He said that women, as they discovered and understood deeply their dignity and vocation through a sensitivity to the workings of the Holy Spirit in matters that call for compassion, caring concern and need of love, would be in a position to enhance their contribution to their families, to the Church, as well as to the society.
He stressed that the role of women in the building of a faith community is important and that their voice and vision are deserving of being heard.
Anita Tunggolou, head of Women’s Commission for the archdiocese, expressed gratitude for the occasion, for the support of the Church, for the speakers, and above all for the women themselves who made the event viable.
A participant, Doris Lim said, “I realize we are females with deep emotions; we are to love, to give and to care as the Lord intends us to. We have Mother Mary, our earthly Mother as our model.”
Another participant, Vera Chin commented “I was moved by the talks emphasizing the dignity of women and God’s plan for their equally important, contrasting yet complementary roles to men – where it was emphasized that women’s natural gift of self and service affects the spiritual as well as overall development of individuals and the future of our society in a profound way.” (Go to www.vatican.va for a more thorough study of Mulieris Dignitatem.)