Anne's faith rewarded

The sudden realisation six years ago that 'this is what I should be doing' was the catalyst for Reverend Anne McKenna to begin a journey that culminated in her becoming one of the first female priests to be ordained in the Ballarat Diocese last weekend.

The ceremony was held at the Ballarat Anglican Cathedral in front of a large congregation, which included more than 40 people from Stawell.

Reverend McKenna will now serve as priest-in-charge of the Stawell parish.

"I've always been around the church and the idea just struck me that this is what I should be doing," she said.

Reverend McKenna has worked in the Ballarat diocese for five years and spent the last four and a half of those years in Stawell.

"I have a wonderful congregation. They are great people in a great town and bring me a lot of joy.

"It is great the Ballarat diocese came to the decision that this is the direction we would take."

There are now only a few Anglican diocese nation-wide that don't allow female priests.

Reverend McKenna said the response from the community had been overwhelmingly positive.

"Of course there were people who were against it but the sense of excitement has been much greater than I anticipated," she said.

"It is a really good feeling to know we are now part of the majority of the Anglican Church."

Reverend McKenna, who was born in Dublin, Ireland but has spent the last 40 years in Australia approaches each day as it comes.

"It was a real sense of adventure that brought me here, originally planned for just two years, but I'm still here," she said.

"The church has always been a large part of my life, my faith in God is a huge part, it always is.

"If I can help people to a realisation of God that gives them a sense of belonging and peace in one's life then I feel this is the job I have been called to do."

Anglican Bishop of Ballarat, Garry Weatherill described last weekend's ceremony as "very significant" for the church in the region.

"It is the first time women have been ordained in the Ballarat diocese," he said.

"It has been happening in Australia for 20 years, but Ballarat has been very slow in that regard.

"Ballarat has been traditionally very conservative. This brings us into line with most of Australia."

The Anglican Synod of Ballarat approved the ordination of women to the priesthood in October.

Bishop Weatherill said while their ordination was an important landmark for the church in the region, it was unlikely to signal a wholesale change in the priesthood in the region.

Reverend McKenna was ordained alongside Reverend Robyn Shackell from Warrnambool.

"There will probably not be a great change. We are not expecting a tidal wave of women priests," he said.

"These are two women who have been well known to us for a long time, who have been actively involved with the church for many years and have a calling to ministry."

- with The Courier

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