In a reflection she gave for International Women’s Day 2021,1 our blog subject describes herself as “Sue Martin – Jesuit”. Sue has found her calling and identity as a Jesuit woman living on Darug land, as well as a “daughter, wife, mother, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend, colleague, peer, chair, mentor, educator, coloniser, landcarer, netballer, pilgrim, Catholic”.
After connecting with Sue through various networks, I first got to know more about her three years ago as she visited a nearby town. We sat down for a chat and immediately discovered so many points of connection. I was struck by Sue’s humility, gentleness, yet passion for justice, and it soon became clear that these qualities come from a deep and reflective faith. Sue has become an educator and champion of integral ecology, especially inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclicals Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti.
As Sue herself explains, “My life journey has had a river running through forming a passion to better care for country. I have an agricultural science degree majoring as an agronomist. But my place was soon grounded within the environmental education profession, helping others to better care for country. I believe our post Covid, post Anthropocene world needs leadership to build the deep connections across and within all our places.”
And so Sue does this from an explicitly Catholic point of view, and leads us as a church to live this vision better. She builds on various sources of spirituality to find her way: “The Aunties from our Australian First Nations community talk about ‘if you don’t care for country, country will not care for you’, finding God in all things becomes my way of proceeding.”
Among other organisations, Sue has worked, In particular, for the Australian Jesuits to help them grow in understanding, and acting with integral ecology. Her sons were the fifth generation in the family to be educated by the Jesuits, which has led to “a deep connection of faith doing justice in my family.” She feels that the organisation of professed religious men has included her, but questions whether women could have a more formal way of participating.
Sue’s life motto is “strong woman” and she takes inspiration from Ruth in the Old Testament, and Martha, Mary and Mother Mary in the New Testament. From them, she learns caring, servant leadership, strength and reflection – and with the farmer Ruth she aspires to “green the heart of our world”.
Other more recent women have also filled Sue with faith and courage. She looks to the early Jesuit Society, to the “strong women who walked with Ignatius, in patronage, advocacy, and active collaborative work”. Sue’s mother is a “deeply religious woman with theology qualifications … I always thought she would become the first female Pope.” Sue was educated by deeply caring Good Samaritan nuns in school and Sr Anna Conway RSM in the parish. And she is encouraged by Anne Soupa in France, who discerned that she would like to be considered as an Archbishop.
In the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), there is a newly formed commission, called Commission on the Role and Responsibilities of Women in the Society of Jesus. Sue dreams that the fruits of the commission could see a call to consider women as consultors in the Voices of Faith. And Sue wonders whether “there is an inclusive formation process to develop women leaders for the Society of the future. Could a formation process be considered not only for women but lay members to become a Jesuit Oblate, or a Jesuit Deacon/ess?”
Let us see what the future holds, Sue. Thank you for sharing your story, and helping us all to listen to the cries of the Earth and the cries of the poor as members of the body of Christ.
Join us and find out more about diaconal ministry in our Feast of St Phoebe webinar on Saturday the 3rd of September: