Feminine Genius

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In the Catholic medieval tradition, and today in the Byzantine and Orthodox rites, the women depicted in this beautiful icon are honoured and each is remembered by name—Mary Magdalene; Mary, the wife of Cleopas and the mother of the disciple James (‘the less’ or ‘the little’) and Joses (or Joseph); Martha and Martha of Bethany, sisters of Lazarus; Joanna, the wife of Chuza the steward of Herod Antipas; Salome, the mother of the disciples James and John (the sons of Zebedee); and Susanna.

In the East, they are called the Holy Myrrh Bearing Women. The Gospels tell us they risked danger, untold grief and the unknown in order to take expensive spices and oils from their own stores to anoint the Saviour's lifeless body.

The Holy Myrrh Bearers, made up of women of different ages, vocations and histories, were disciples of Christ, drawn together by concrete encounters with His saving and divine love. They also drew strength and inspiration together as women, manifesting what Pope John Paul II calls their 'feminine genius'.

These women are the guardian saints and spiritual mothers of the Anima Women's Network.

The network began with an open but simple plan in Melbourne during 2002 and 2003.

A feisty group of young Catholic women approached Anna Krohn with the complaint that although there was an endless and sometimes conflicting variety of social, professional, sub-cultural and quasi-political women's groups, there seemed to be nothing which fed a personally encouraging and spiritually-centred 'feminism' based on the ethos of the Gospels.

They needed an involvement that was realistic, smart, welcoming and concrete, but at the same time something which in their words, 'nurtured the heart of women' and challenged them to an alternative to secular and superficial models of 'femininity'.

All the women were already over-committed (not to mention over-burdened) with professional, family and social responsibilities and with life in general. It was therefore essential that Anima events were high on inspiration and low on organisational demand.

Anima's aim has been to welcome the often silent, isolated and hidden women of faith to events which would enable them, despite and even through their differences, to experience an inspiring sense of 'communio' and shared refreshment.

Anima reminds each woman of her God-given dignity and mystery and challenges her to develop her true vocation and fulfilment by hosting, what we hope are, both graceful and Grace-filled encounters with other women.

Anima aspires to recognise the many challenges of living in a secular (sometimes aggressively so) and fragmenting culture. We listen to the concerns of the women who are part of the network and from this provide 'spaces' in which they can talk, listen, and share values and experiences.

Anima Conferences have addressed issues such as the relationship of women and children, St Therese and her experience of depression, the theology of the body, the destructive reality of trafficking and prostitution, positive strategies for stress, the vital role of women in building a 'Culture of Life', Mary and the Eucharist, the healing touch of Christ, and women and the question of 'authentic' feminine beauty.

Keynote speakers have included: The Sisters for Life (from New York), Linda Watson (from Linda's House of Hope), Professor Janet Smith, Michelle Moran, Moira Kelly, Rita Joseph, Melinda Tankard Reist (founder of Women's Forum Australia and Collective Shout), Agnes Mary Hanna (clinical psychologist and theologian) and Schoenstatt Sister Isabel Neumann.  There have also been vocation centred talks given by the Conventual Sisters of St Dominic, Dominican Sisters from Nashville and support offered to the women’s spiritual conferences by the Sisters of Nazareth, the Missionaries of God’s Love and the Peter Claver Sisters.