Woman O'Reilly, Colleen


Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Colleen O'Reilly was born in 1949 and grew up in Sydney. During the 1970s she became associated with the group of Christian feminists who were trying to reconcile their feminism with their religious life. A founder with former Catholic nun Erin White of the journal Women-Church and a key member of the reform group Anglican Women Concerned she attended her first women's ordination meeting in 1974. In 1981 she met Margaret Marsh, an ordained Anglican priest 'from a place of almost mythical advancement - New Zealand. "Watching Ms Marsh, vested as a priest, join the procession to the altar", Dr O'Reilly said "it strongly came to me, it really is OK to be a woman"' [Age, 10 December 2012].

Having graduated with a PhD in theology O'Reilly taught at the United Theological College in Parramatta where men were trained for the priesthood, but the continuing resistance to women's ordination in the Diocese of Sydney saw her calling thwarted. In 1994 she moved to Melbourne to take up the position of Associate Dean and Director of Ministry Studies, Melbourne College of Divinity. She was ordained deacon in 1995 and priested in the following year. As a member of the Melbourne Synod she played a leading role on the committee on women in the episcopate. The campaign, she explained, was 'about women, not about me ... I want to see women become bishops and I want to experience women bishops myself. I want to see that happening in my church' [Sydney Morning Herald, 29 September 2007]. 'Priests like me need women bishops, and the whole church needs women at the highest level' [Age, 5 July 2003].

In 2013 O'Reilly was Vicar of St George's, Malvern, a position she has occupied since 2007. Her leadership in the church was acknowledged in her invitation to preach at the service commemorating twenty years of women's ordination in Melbourne in 2012.

Published Resources


  • Stewart, Colleen O'Reilly and Parks, Suzanne, Women and ordination in the Anglican Church of Australia: A discussion paper, Movement for the Ordination of Women, Sydney, New South Wales, 1985. Details

Online Resources

See also