Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sr Susan Thomas speaking at The Rights and Roles of Women seminar.Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sr Susan Thomas speaking at The Rights and Roles of Women seminar.Women’s health, career issues and a Vatican document on the family were topics tackled at a seminar for women organised by the Family Life Society (FLS).

The Oct 13 seminar, titled The Rights and Roles of Women, was the last of three seminars this year on Familiaris Consortio, a Church document on family life.

“Our aim for this seminar is for women to align their faith and roles as mothers, wives or singles in facing the challenges of today,” Ms Michelle Soliano, FLS programme manager told CatholicNews.

Sr Susan Thomas from the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, one of three speakers at the seminar, highlighted salient points in Familiaris Consortio.

The nun, who spent seven years in Pakistan in missionary work with women, said the document gives the Church’s position on marriage, and the role and challenges faced by the family in the modern world.

She explained that the document, written by Blessed John Paul II in 1981, stressed responsible procreation and opposed an abortion and contraceptive mentality. It also deals with the plan of God for marriage and the family based on the understanding that God is love, she said.

The document also emphasises the importance of a life of Christian service, participation in the development of society and sharing in the life and mission of the Church, she noted.

Dr Vicky Koh, a radiation oncologist, spoke on breast, cervical and endometrial cancer.

She said that breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Singapore. Endometrial cancer, which attacks the lining of the uterus is the fourth, and cervical cancer is the sixth.

Dr Koh gave tips on how to identify the signs and symptoms of cancers, preventive measures for those who may be at risk, and treatment options.

She advised going for cancer testing as early detection could result in a better chance of survival.

One question asked by a member of the audience was, “Are there links between stress and cancer?”

Dr Koh said that there were no conclusive studies to suggest any links. However, stress does lead to a lower immune response which could make someone more vulnerable healthwise, she said.

Ms Esther Chia, head of human resources at a financial institution, gave advice to women thinking of returning to the workforce.

She explained that most companies these days offer flexible working arrangements for mothers with young children, a longer maternity leave period and subsidised child care. The government also offers tax rebates to encourage more births.

Ms Chia stressed the importance of remaining relevant to the workforce by keeping in touch with the industry’s standards and practices even if mothers are on a year’s sabbatical to raise their child.

Keeping in touch will help keep women employable, she said.

Ms Chia added that most companies these days will also offer parents time off to care for children when needed.

Participants said they found the talks useful.

Ms May Yang, a volunteer with FLS’ Pregnancy Crisis Service, said she found Dr Koh’s talk useful for her work, especially how “early sexual intercourse, and with multiple partners, increases the risk of cervical cancer”.

Ms Jacqueline Ang said that Ms Chia’s talk is a “good reminder that the answer to a happy work life lies within yourself, to find out what your needs are”.

By Martin See
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