The National Board of Catholic Women hosted a recent seminar on education given by Sarah Raffray, head of St Augustine's Priory School, London. Sarah was a former deputy head at St Mary's school in Shaftesbury.
Drawing on her vast experience gained in Catholic girls' schools, her talk explored the spiritual experiences of young women in education today, their hopes, and aspirations for the Church as well as their disappointments. Contrasting these against her own personal experiences and formation as a Catholic woman, Sarah drew attention to the way that the world has rapidly changed making it ever more difficult to connect, in a holistic way, education, spirituality church and the feminine.
There were extracts from poetry, music, theology and hymns. The Song of Ruth, beautifully sung by two students, enriched the talk, which did not shy away from the wider feminist debate in education and in the Church, which has resulted in falling numbers and disengaged young people.
However, the talk also recognised the great strides that Pope Francis has taken to give young people and women a greater voice and this gave the presentation a hopeful tone which was well within the spirit of the Synod. Sarah left everyone with lots to think about; it was an optimistic talk tinged with realism, but most of all what came across was the need for active listening to young women, which all of us in the Church need to engage in.
Jacintha Bowe is Convenor of the NBCW Education Committee.
See a recording of the talk: https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/fvTPrKicA9BPm_OwHczrBRBWxNwUU6oPoLZvLZhKt-vZY7lkG2_1e13tk6xS6TPY.xiYVzEThZj8GjW-e