Incarnating the Feminine Genius in the Contemporary Catholic Church

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Leonie Westenberg


As Western society has seemingly become apathetic about faith and religion[1], many within the Catholic Church have simultaneously become concerned with issues of relevance. The call from Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis has been to examine the fruits of the Second Vatican Council, with a view to evangelisation, emphasising the role of the Church in modern society. Responses to this call on a pastoral level, however, often fail to recognise the specific needs of women in society and in the Church today. The goal of this article is to examine practical movements in the contemporary Church that are instigated by women, addressing the distinct needs of women in our communities in terms of vocation, spiritual motherhood and the ‘feminine genius’ (Edith Stein), with receptivity and empathy for others, including the disenfranchised and excluded. Is the Church on a local level utilising women’s ‘care thinking’[2] in the practical outpourings of its faith and charity? In answer to this question, this article discusses the emergence of grassroots movements that exemplify the incarnation of the feminine genius in the contemporary Catholic Church.[1] Roy Williams, Post God Nation? How religion fell off the radar in Australia – and what might be done to get it back on, (Sydney, Australia: ABC Books, 2015) 28.[2] Carol Gilligan, In a different voice: Psychological theory and women's development, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.1983). Leonie WestenbergAssociate Lecturer, TheologyUniversity of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney campus104 Broadway (P.O. Box 944)Broadway NSW 2007E: (02) 8204 4175 (School) Degrees:Masters of Theology, Charles Sturt University, Australia.Postgraduate Diploma Theological Studies, Flinders University, Australia.Postgraduate Certificate Theological Studies, Flinders University, Australia.Diploma Teaching, Edith Cowan University, Australia. Biographical information:Leonie Westenberg is an Associate Lecturer in Theology at Notre Dame University Australia, Sydney campus. She lectures in theology in the Logos programme, the university’s core curriculum. She has been the author of and contributor to several books on education and has written for The Conversation on ‘The paradox of work over the summer season’, and “Blessed are the Hunger Games? Katniss Everdeen lives the Beatitudes’. She has presented papers at the Society for the Study of Theology April 2015 conference at the University of Nottingham on ‘Thinking the Church Today: What are the implications of the Second Vatican Council, fifty years, on for women, in light of the discussion of Mary in Lumen Gentium?’, and at the 2016 Marian Conference at Notre Dame University Australia on Literary Apologetics. Email address:

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Leonie Westenberg, Associate Lecturer, University of Notre Dame, Australia

The University of Notre Dame AustraliaP.O. Box 944Broadway NSW 2007