Seeker of Truth, Doer of Justice
Late last year at the end of my four-year science degree, I decided that my ten-year dream of becoming a veterinarian was no longer relevant. I chose to find work experience within the Loreto network, a community that has consistently provided me with support and opportunities to be an active global citizen.
After graduating, many people do not retain much of a connection to their old school but the favourite part of my Loreto education is that my experience extends beyond what I was taught in the classroom and is still strong five years after graduating. Since then, I have volunteered at the MWIA office in Melbourne, with the Loreto Sisters in India, and soon in NYC where I will work as an intern for Loreto at the United Nations.
Mother Gonzaga Barry said: “Leave something behind on which others can build.” This quote always stands out for me. When I think about my career, I tend not to think about what I want to be or where I want to work, but the kind of impact that I want to have. I want the work that I do to be collaborative, foundational and adaptive.
It is that quote by Gonzaga Barry, as well as my experience with MWIA in both India and Melbourne, that drove me to apply for an internship at the United Nations in New York, supervised by Loreto Sister, Cecilia O’Dwyer. I completed my studies in Science Advanced – Global Challenges with Honours at Monash University. The course aims to equip young leaders with communication, entrepreneur and leadership skills to tackle adaptive challenges where there is no clear or rational solution. I became aware of the importance of multidisciplinary action when mitigating such issues and developing solutions using not only science, but social sciences, culture and economics. I am excited to work on different issues, affecting different people and places, and working towards developing policy that is considerate, actionable and sustainable.
Earlier this year, I assisted MWIA Programs Manager, Kirstin Del Beato in preparing and reviewing internal policy for the organisation. The MWIA office in Melbourne is shared with other members of the Loreto Centre. I was able to engage with and get to know the Sisters and staff who work in all areas of Loreto. Although the team is small, the reach, impact and ambition of MWIA is incredible.
This wasn’t my first experience volunteering for MWIA. At the end of 2016, I boarded a plane to India where I spent a month living with the Loreto sisters in Siliguri and working with the Darjeeling Mary Ward Social Centre. Throughout high school I was always involved in extracurricular and social justice activities that raised money for the work that Loreto does globally. However, being able to witness the impact firsthand in India showed me how sustainable the projects run or funded by MWIA truly are.
I’m writing this article at a cafe in Islington, London, at the tail end of a four-month solo trip through Europe. In some ways, I feel a little bit like Mary Ward, who told us to “be seekers of truth and doers of justice”. Throughout this trip and through my experiences with MWIA, I have sought new and challenging opportunities to broaden my knowledge, understanding and experience. I continue my journey to New York as a doer, being a part of a community working towards equality and justice, especially for women and children.
Being a part of the Loreto community means that throughout this trip, I have never felt alone. Whether it be the 30+ Toorak past pupils I met at the London reunion in June, the Loreto and CJ Sisters and staff throughout Europe, or even the Loreto subway station in Paris – the strength and stretch of the Loreto community is comforting, inspiring and encouraging.
I am sure that most within the Loreto Network recognise the Mary Ward quote “Women in time will come to do much.” For me, now more than ever, it feels like that time.
I always admired Mary Ward at school. Her story was present in our school values, celebrations and songs; however, it has been through my experiences with MWIA that I feel as though I truly understand her. I am sure that most within the Loreto Network recognise the Mary Ward quote “Women in time will come to do much.” I remember it posted on the far wall of our auditorium throughout my time as a student at Loreto Mandeville Hall. For me, now more than ever, it feels like that time.
Francesca Torcasio Barberis
MWIA Volunteer and past Loreto Toorak Student