Sr. Patricia Murray at the Conference "Women Leaders: Towards a brighter future"

Sr. Patricia Murray at the Conference "Women Leaders: Towards a brighter future"


The keynote address delivered by Sr Patricia Murray, Executive Secretary of the International Union of Superiors General, at the Conference Women Leaders: Towards a Brighter Future held on March 6, 2024 in Rome, Italy.


The title of the Conference bring me back to the early 1600’s when the foundress of my religious congregation, an English woman, Mary Ward, envisaged a new form of religious life for women. It was to be non-cloistered, with sisters engaging in the education of women and girls and meeting the social needs of the day. In 1617 when a cleric made an observation about the weakness of the religious fervour of her sisters saying ‘they are but women” she responded vigorously saying “there is no such difference between men and women that women may not do great things.” Then she added “And I hope in God that it will be seen that women in time to come will do much.”  Sadly in the 17th century her God given vision was suppressed by the Church.

However over the centuries Mary Ward’s vision for women and the vision of countless women within church and society has brought about change. Some years I shared a panel with women leaders from different fields – one a CEO of, another an international lawyer, a third an astronaut and the fourth ran her own business. Several were mothers with children. The topic  focused on Pope Francis’ appeal for a revolution of tenderness and compassion. They shared how tenderness and compassion in the home and workplace were essential for the flourishing of humanity. These were women who had broken through the glass ceiling of their professions and who sought to make a difference.

Where are we, the Catholic sisters? We are there in the midst of the daily struggles of people.

While I remember that particular experience, my thoughts also turn to the many women that I have met over the years, living in challenging and difficult situations; women who are leaders in their own right because of their extraordinary resilience, courage and hope. I remember them today and honour them. We can’t forget the many women who today are living with their families in difficult contexts especially where wars, conflicts and scarcity prevail. I want to remember women who walk for four hours to the well for water and labor in the fields; those women who have been trafficked; women who migrate overseas to work to support their families at home. I think of the women who challenge cultural mores in their societies and want a better and more fulfilling life for their daughters. I hear the voice of one women in South Sudan proclaiming loudly “I will see to it that my daughter won’t be valued by the number of cows needed for her dowry.”  I want to remember the women who are raising their voices to protest at environmental destruction happening near their villages because of mining and deforestation.  I could continue and add to this list.


In the midst of these demanding situations women are showing leadership across the planet. Wells are being dug, trees are being planted, cultural practices are being slowly challenged and changed. Awareness raising campaigns are tackling human trafficking. Women are advocating for education and health care for themselves and their families. They are joining hands across old bitterness’s and hatreds to work for peace and justice. They are working together in local cooperatives and women’s’ groups to build sustainable livelihoods. They sing and dance and rejoice together even in the midst of daily difficulties because they know that community and collaboration are the only way to build a common future. The Dominican Albert Nolan wrote that “the only way ahead is together, hand in hand, helping and healing one another.” 


And where are we the Catholic sisters? We are there in the midst of the daily struggles of people.  We have answered Pope Francis call to “leave our nests”; “go out through that door and meet the people” “go out on the streets”; “go to the frontiers” “leave the centre and travel towards the peripheries”; “reach the fringes of humanity.”  Together with other women and men we are building networks of solidarity and developing practical projects to tackle human trafficking, to welcome migrants and refugees and to mitigate and confront climate change and environmental destruction, reaching out in multiple ways to those seeking for help of any kind. Care for the planet and care for the poor is at the heart of our mission and ministries because “fullness of life” is at the core of Gospel living.   


Patricia Snudden

When we come to believe that we are treasures….that we are valuable….that we are loved, cherished and gift… THEN we will enable others to Welcome that reality into their hearts. May we be forever grateful for the gift of our womanhood.


Catherine Grasswill

La conférence de Sr Patricia Murray est certainement intéressante, j'aimerai l'avoir en Français, or lorsque je clique sur langue puis Francais, rien en change puisqu'il s'agit d'un document pdf, et la forme refuse toute possibilité de conversion en DOC ou autre... Merci. Bonne marche vers Pâque

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