Stawell Reverend Anne McKenna the Wimmera's first female priest

STAWELL Reverend Anne McKenna has become the Wimmera’s first female Anglican priest.

Rev McKenna and Warrnambool’s Robyn Shackell were ordained in a ceremony in Ballarat Anglican Cathedral on Saturday.

The Ballarat diocese is one of the last in Victoria to ordain women into the priesthood.

Rev McKenna said it had been a long time coming.

“It’s been a matter of working through the process in a methodical way,” she said.

“The governing body of the diocese approved it in October and then they set the date for December 7.”

Rev McKenna said priests travelled from across the state to attend the ordination.

“It was a great day,” she said. 

“People came from all over the place.

“We took a big bus down from Stawell – we certainly had a large presence.”

Rev McKenna said she was overwhelmed by the support of the Stawell congregation and larger Anglican community.

“It’s been huge,” she said.

“I’ve had so many people congratulate me and send me cards, and phone calls. I’m amazed.”

As is tradition, Rev McKenna delivered her first Eucharist service the day after ordination.

“It was wonderful to be able to celebrate the Eucharist for the first time with the congregation I’ve been looking after for the past four years,” she said.

She moved to Stawell as a locum and decided to stay.

“I’ve always been involved in the church as a lay-person,” she said.

“About 10 years ago I realised I was called to do more than just sit in the congregation.”

Rev McKenna was ordained as a deacon about six years go.

She will serve as priest-in-charge of the Stawell parish, while Rev Shackell is assistant priest of the Warrnambool parish.

Anglican Bishop of Ballarat Garry Weatherill described Saturday’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.”

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