Archdiocese's Outstanding Leader in Interfaith Dialogue to Receive ACU's Highest Honour

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
20 May 2015

Sr Giovanni Farquer

Scholar, educator and for the past 12 years Executive Director of the Archdiocese of Sydney's Commission of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Sister Giovanni Farquer RSJ will be awarded the highest honour the Australian Catholic University can bestow when she is made a Doctor of the University next week.

During the University's graduation ceremonies next week, she will be conferred with the honorary Doctorate in recognition of her outstanding leadership in interfaith dialogue, dedication, leadership and contributions to the Sisters of St Joseph, her invaluable service to education, devotion to the pursuit of knowledge and unwavering commitment to the common good.

Sister Giovanni Farquer Celebrations Harmony Day with students at Sule College

As a Doctor of the University, Sr Giovanni will join a distinguished group of outstanding Catholics awarded this important honour. Among past recipients conferred with a Doctor of the University (Honoris Causa) by ACU are Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, the Archbishop of Sydney the Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, former Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, former Prime Minister John Howard, Australia's Ambassador to the US and former leader of the Labor Party, Kim Beazley, the Archbishop of New York, the Most Rev Timothy Dolan and the Philippines' Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Tagle .

Known for her wisdom, skill, compassion, tact and understanding, Sr Giovanni is not only highly regarded by Australia's Catholic community which she has served for more than 50 years, but is trusted and admired by the leaders of Australia's different faith groups with whom she has developed strong ties. In addition to the leaders, she is also well known and respected at a grass roots level among Sydney's many vibrant and diverse, multi-cultural communities.

Archdiocesan Commission Members for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Relations Selena Hasham and Ms Lea Lo Mascolo with Director, Sr Giovanni Farquer

A graduate of the University of Melbourne, Sr Giovanni holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English Literature and Middle Eastern History. She also has a Master of Arts in Middle Eastern History, awarded for her thesis on Christology in the Koran. 

In addition, after being awarded a UNESCO fellowship, she undertook further studies overseas, completing a  Master of Educational Administration at the Sorbonne in Paris and obtaining further units of study from France's International Institute for Educational Planning.  Before returning to Australia, she continued her studies in Rome at the Gregorian University and the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies.

Esteemed as one of Australia's foremost scholars on the connections and traditions of the world's great Abrahamic faiths of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, Sr Giovanni has won deep respect for her tireless promotion of the importance of interfaith dialogue and for championing the inclusion of Muslim students in Australia's Catholic schools.

Sheikh Hammoodi (centre) with Sr Giovanni Farquer (5th from l) Rabbi Zalman Kastel (3rd r) and other members of Sydney's multi faith community.

Still in her early 20s when she first started teaching at a school in the Victorian coal town of Morwell, Sr Giovanni later taught at schools in Melbourne's Western suburbs and in 1970 opened the MacKillop Catholic Regional College in Werribee.

Starting with just 90 students, but by the time Sr Giovanni left in 1995, the College had a student body of 1200 and remains one of the largest Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Appointed Congregational Leader of the Sisters of St Joseph, Sr Giovanni made important contributions to the life of the Congregation founded by Australia's first saint, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop over the next six years.  Then in 2003 the then Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell asked her to head up the Archdiocese's Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.

It was and continues to be an inspired choice and in recognition of her immense contribution to inter-religious dialogue, ACU will confer Sr Giovanni with the University's highest honour on Wednesday, 27 May.

The Federal Government invited Sr Giovanni Farquer to address Australian Multicultural
Council in 2013

The award will be made during the University's Graduation Ceremony for graduands from the Faculty of Law and Business, and the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy to be held at the Grand Pavillion, Rosehill Gardens.

Among the dignitaries who will attend the ceremony will be ACU Chancellor John Fahey AC, Vice Chancellor of ACU Professor Greg Craven, Associate Vice Chancellor Professor Marea Nicholson and members of the ACU Senate.

After being conferred with the Honorary Degree, Sr Giovanni will deliver a keynote address after which graduating students will be awarded their degrees and diplomas.