Bonds form in womens mentoring pilot

Helena Roumanus speaks at a reunion for the group of 30 women on 19 March. Photo: Patrick J Lee

Living at opposite ends of Sydney and different stages of life, Selina Hasham, 54, and Olga Shchepotkina, 19, have bonded over their shared faith.

The two were paired up for a pilot of a mentoring program by the Catholic Womens Network at the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation launched last September.

Their monthly catchups passed with a growing sense that God was with them on the journey.

This has made me appreciate the need for companionship as we live our faith life, especially for young people, Selina said.

In the lay Catholic community I belong to we call it discipleshipwalking with someone along their journey of faith and offering a listening ear, accompaniment and the sharing of wisdom.

The chief executive officer of travel company Harvest Journeys said volunteering as a mentor was a way to give back to God and the church community.

Mentoring is always mutually beneficial, its not one way. The mentor and mentee are collaborating with the Holy Spirit to seek where God is working, she said.

Olga already has a strong faith which she practices in a very dedicated way.

I hope I gave her some encouragement and helped her to see how God is guiding her in her life.

Olga, a student at Campion College, said she had been hoping for a sympathetic listening ear and advice from a Catholic woman with more life experience.

Selina was incredibly sympathetic and I immediately felt so heard and understood by her in a way that few people in my life have been capable of resembling, she said.

Above: Selina Hasham and Olga Shchepotkina bond over faith. Left: Helena Roumanus speaks at a reunion for the group of 30 women on 19 March.   Photo: Patrick J Lee
Above: Selina Hasham and Olga Shchepotkina bond over faith. Left: Helena Roumanus speaks at a reunion for the group of 30 women on 19 March. Photo: Patrick J Lee

She always knew exactly what I needed to hear and constantly gave me incredible advice which has helped me grow in beautiful ways, whether it was in my relationship with God or certain life struggles I needed to overcome.

The initiative was part of the SCEs mission to Go Make Disciples by strengthening peoples connections across the archdiocese and encouraging deeper discipleship through spiritual accompaniment.

It concluded with a reunion for the pilot group of 30 women on 19 March at the archdioceses chancery offices in Leichhardt.

Hashya Weerakkody, 24, was matched with Marianna Sanavio, 41, for the six-month pilot.

We both work in the church and there are unique challenges and blessings that come with working within the ministry space, so it was beautiful to start from a common background understanding, Hashya said.

Marianna agreed. We both felt able to share pretty deep things about circumstances we were going through in different areas of our lives that you usually wouldnt be open to strangers or new friends about, she said.

I think it was because we were already sisters in Christ.

Helena Roumanus, Catholic Womens Network Project Officer, said feedback from the pilot will help the team discern how best to support and serve the needs of Catholic women.

Our young women dont need more influencers, they need more role models, she said.

The kind of mentoring we hoped to model with this pilot is different to what youd find in the corporate sphere, its more the art of accompaniment and its something we all need as we seek to grow in our relationship with Christ and as women, Helena said.

We are all called to be missionary disciples. We werent interested in what our mentor group had on their resumeswhat a younger Catholic women told us they needed was a listening ear and a safe space to lay down their burdens.

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