Mentoring and spiritual direction are key aspects of women’s leadership program

Jaren Malales is one of eight women receiving support to undertake studies aimed at promoting women’s leadership within the Church through the Good Samaritan Study and Mentoring (SAM) Leadership Program, and she is already reaping the fruits in her daily life.

This is the third year that Jaren, who lives in Bacolod in the Philippines, has been part of the SAM Program and she is edging closer to completing her studies in Religious Education and pursuing her ministry and career ambitions.

“The SAM Program has helped me financially, mentally, and spiritually,” she said. “It has formed me to be a better person, mature in faith, thanks to the mentoring component and the spiritual direction.”

Jaren Malales. Image supplied.

Jaren is in her third year of studies and will be taking her comprehensive examination between July and August this year. After the examination she will begin work on her thesis.

Jaren hopes that after graduating she will be employed to teach Religious Education at one of the universities in Bacolod City.

“I am looking forward to continuing my ministry in my parish as a catechist in both youth and adult formation,” she said. “I will continue to learn and share my learnings with my students and my community, eventually hoping to inspire and draw others closer to Jesus.”

Mandy Hayward, from Perth in Western Australia, is a teacher of Religion in a Catholic school and has been teaching for a number of years.

“Since beginning my studies four years ago, I have obtained a permanent position as a Religious teacher, a change from teaching Mathematics,” she said.

Mandy Hayward. Image supplied.

“The cost of studying is expensive, so I applied for the SAM scholarship. What attracted me was the spiritual direction. Having mentorship to be able to sound out ideas and talk through success and frustrations is invaluable. There’s no other opportunity to gain something so valuable within the Catholic Church community.”

Mandy hopes to complete her Master’s in Arts (Theology) this year and said her studies had provided a firm grounding for her work.

“I have more knowledge to give to my students and a genuine interest in the subject, which is acknowledged in my work,” she said.

“Having someone to guide me will enable me to make use of the knowledge I have to benefit other people. I like the idea of making connections with women in the Catholic community, not just in my own community, but across Australia, to share ideas and experiences on how we can be more involved at a local level.”

Anne-Maree Wilsmore-Smith in the Diocese of Bathurst said she applied for the SAM Program not only for the financial support, but also the opportunity to engage in the mentoring aspect.

Anne-Maree works as a secondary teacher in Religion and Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) at La Salle Academy, Lithgow, where she is also Pastoral Welfare Coordinator.

Anne-Maree Wilsmore-Smith. Image supplied.

She learned about the SAM Program through a friend who had been a participant in previous years.

“I wished to complete my Religion degree and start a leadership course,” Anne-Maree said.  “However, with two little treasures under six, it was not feasible financially. I was hoping the SAM Program could provide a little financial support and mentoring from strong women in my line of work.”

Anne-Maree has enrolled in the Master’s of Theology and Leadership through BBI – The Australian Institute of Theological Education, which she is largely able to complete online while working full-time.

“Now that both my daughters are at school, I have the capacity to recreate my career path and spiritual journey with the support of family, friends and the SAM Program,” she said.

From the Top End, Kathryn Pettersen is Religious Education Coordinator at MacKillop Catholic College in Darwin. With a background as Youth Coordinator for the Diocese of Darwin, she said she was “drawn to the connectedness” of the SAM Program.

Kathryn Pettersen. Image supplied.

“The journeying with other women, mentoring, and spiritual direction attracted me,” she said. “It’s a unique program that highlights the importance of a balanced and all-encompassing spiritual and working life.”

Kathryn hopes her studies will lead to a greater application of how faith can not only be taught, but lived.

“I hope that through this program, I will be able to learn from the other participants, learn from their stories and experiences, to share knowledge and resources, and to share in a wider faith community,” she said.

Three young women also received support through the SAM Program to participate in the spiritual direction and mentoring aspect. They are Geralyn McCarthy, Nicola Chin and Kylie Baker. And, for the second year, Elizabeth Dale is being supported with accommodation during semesters through the program.

This year, it is hoped that despite the participants of the program coming from all parts of Australia and overseas, the whole group, including Sisters, mentors and spiritual directors, will be able to get together in person for a weekend gathering in April.

The popular SAM Program has been expanded thanks to financial assistance from a number of religious congregations.

Read about fellow 2023 SAM Program scholars Cecilienne-Mae Matienzo, Renee Fleeton, Davina Francoise and Jessica Kenny in the February 2023 edition of ‘The Good Oil’.