MSS Scholarships, making an impact

Young woman in graduation garb surrounded by family

As part of our legacy and commitment to the formation and encouragement of pastoral and theological education, particularly for young women, the MSS have been offering annual study scholarships through the University of Divinity, in Melbourne. Geraldine Vytilingam was the inaugural recipient of the 2023 Fr John Wallis Scholarship, which marked Fr John’s 90-year anniversary of ordination. With the scholarship funds, Geraldine pursued a Graduate Diploma in Theology in 2023 and this year is completing a Masters in Theology.

Speaking of her studies, Geraldine says, ‘The subjects I have studied in semester one this year have been fruitful building blocks in preparation for my Minor Thesis. Through investigating liturgical and sacramental theology, I have a deeper appreciation of the Church’s traditions and symbology. A highlight has been my class in inter-religious dialogue at Yarra Theological Union. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of listening, conversing and forming friendships with people of different faith and cultural backgrounds than my own. It’s been transformative, both personally and academically, to participate in the Church’s mission of inter-religious dialogue on such a grass roots level.

‘In semester two, I look forward to continuing my research in Indigenous spirituality and liturgical theology with my supervisor, Rev Dr Canon Garry Worete Deverell. I hope that my work informs a praxis which advocates for a greater inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ expressions of sacramentality; which I consider crucial for the betterment of the church in Australia.’

The 2024 MSS Scholarship in honour of our 80th anniversary of foundation was awarded earlier this year to Monique Saywell. This scholarship, which focuses on women and ecological studies, has enabled Monique to undertake a Masters in Theological Studies over two years through Yarra Theological Union at Box Hill, Victoria and University of Divinity in Adelaide, SA. The purpose of this scholarship is to support theological education and pastoral leadership in Australia that is consonant with the vision of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on ‘care for our common home’.

Portrait of young woman Monique SaywellReflecting on her studies, Monique (photographed right) says: ‘Diving deep back into study in this first semester has been a whirlwind of rediscovering God’s goodness and the interconnectedness that we all share. Subjects in pastoral care and the pastoral response to trauma have been invaluable in my role as a Chaplain in a small Catholic school.

‘The first semester has left me deeply inspired and willing for more. It has granted me the opportunity to carve out space to personally wonder in God’s presence and be curious to where this may all lead in the space of pastoral leadership.’

The MSS are excited to announce that the next in its scholarship series will go to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person and will commemorate the 7th anniversary of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, honouring the call for Voice, Treaty and Truth-telling. This scholarship will be awarded in late 2024.

Photograph above: Geraldine Vytilingam and her parents (with Stancea and Bernadette at each end), at her Graduate Diploma in Theology graduation on 15 March 2024. Geraldine is a step closer to her Masters in Theology graduation next year.