Melbourne John Wallis Memorial Lecture marks 75 years of the Missionary Sisters of Service

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Media and Communications Office 
 Photo Credit: Fiona Basille
Over 100 people attended the Melbourne 2019 John Wallis Memorial Lecture which was held at Gennazanno FCJ College this week courtesy of Highways and Byways- a Community of Service, marking the 75th year of the Missionary Sisters of Service.
 Pictured (left to right): Geraldine Doogue, Sr. Stancea Vichie mss and Zuleyha Keskin
 Photo Credit: Fiona Basille
The night was led by Australian journalist and broadcaster Geraldine Doogue and explored the unique and enduring leadership and contributions by women of faith over the past 75 years, in conversation with Sr. Stancea Vichie mss, Congregational Leader of the Missionary Sisters of Service and Zuleyha Keskin, Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilization.
 Pictured: Renowned ABC Broadcaster, Geraldine Doogue
On the night, Geraldine Doogue raised some interesting points about leadership as a desirable trait in today’s world. She began by citing a poem which is commonly attributed to Nelson Madella, however, composed by author Marianne Williamson.
‘I was remembering a great line, "you playing small does not serve the world, there is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you, we were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us, it’s not just in some of us; It's in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."’
According to Geraldine, many females educated in the Catholic educational system have been given mixed messages regarding the idea of ‘rising above.’
‘We were told to be bold,’ she said, contrasting that with the notion of staying humble.
‘Now that is really tough and quite a mixed message. Ironically, we have to be prepared to take the risk of no longer being fabulously good nurturers, I think that’s where we thought the leadership lay and I feel so strongly about the value of nurturing, mentoring, that absolute base level of bringing people along with you which is exactly what the sisters of service have done,’ she said.
Geraldine raised that in this day in age, everyone has been empowered to be a leader and how that emphasis could potentially be counterproductive in our society.
‘It may well be your mission to serve well,’ Geraldine said. ‘Leadership is the apotheosis to everything and is a real issue for us in our society. I think it places an emphasis on the individual which I think there’s too much of.’ 
 Pictured: Sr Stancea Vichie mss 
‘We’re elected to be leaders,’ said Sr. Stancea.
‘And it doesn’t go on forever. I remember my first round of leadership that went for 11 or 12 years, I felt the freedom of letting go. But I know very clearly that I can walk away from that role and still be who I am. I am a human being, a woman, and with particular gifts or flaws I might have that’s the whole of what I bring and what’s asked of me in our community.’
‘Leadership is about reading the signs of the times, it goes hand in hand with John Wallis and reading ‘big maps’,’ she said. ‘Not to be in a cocoon.’
Sr Stancea also mentioned that she enjoys bringing a ‘sense of history’ to her leadership. ‘When people lose a sense of history, they don’t see the bigger picture.’ 
Zuleyha spoke about the challenges of being a leader in today’s society. ‘People have different expectations,’ she said.
 Pictured: Sr. Stancea Vichie mss and Zuleyha Keskin
‘And difference drives people to follow a leader. It does get easier, in my experience. It requires a lot of patience; you learn that communication is key.’
She also reiterated the point of balancing pride and humility. ‘We are living in a world that sees humility as being meek or that you’ve got self-esteem issues, so you’ve got to navigate through those things which aren’t easy as well.’
There was a common thread between the two different faiths, of being overly patriarchal and a discussion raised on how women can still contribute to a system that may not immediately welcome their perspective.
‘I think it’s something that we have to work through, especially for the younger generation, that’s something that they are not always willing to do,’ said Zuleyha. ‘One other thing I always keep in mind is working on my circle of influence. That’s become one of my biggest mottos.’
Towards the end of the evening, there was a Q&A session and an opportunity to catch up over tea and coffee.
For more information on the Missionary Sisters of Service, head to
Previous Article Priests will maintain sanctity of confession
Next Article Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne responds to proposed amendments to mandatory reporting