Archive for category Women in the Church

Pope names three women to Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops / Vatican News

“… the first time women have been appointed to the Dicastery responsible for identifying future bishops globally.”

By Deborah Castellano Lubov, Vatican News

Pope Francis on Wednesday named three women to the Dicastery for Bishops, the first time women have been appointed to the Dicastery responsible for identifying future bishops globally.

The Holy See Press Office published the Pope’s latest appointments to the Dicastery in a statement on Wednesday. 

The female members are Sister Raffaella Petrini, F.S.E., Secretary General of the Governorate of the Vatican City State; Sister Yvonne Reungoat, F.M.A, former Superior General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; and, Dr. Maria Lia Zervino, President of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations.

The nomination of Ms. Zervino also marks the first appointment ever of a laywoman to the Vatican Dicastery.

By Deborah Castellan Luboc, Vatican News — Read more …

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The church with no faith in its women / The Sydney Morning Herald

It does seem to beggar belief that, shortly after a census revealed that Australians are abandoning the institutional churches in droves – for reasons including the exclusion of women from leadership, along with sex abuse scandals, irrelevance and treatment of LGBTQI people – that a group of bishops could so readily dismiss a simple, plaintive motion asking women be heard.

By Julia Baird, The Sydney Morning Herald

“‘Embarrassing. Shocking. Scandalous and absolutely unacceptable.’ The 86-year-old Benedictine nun Sister Joan Chittister was in bed this week – recovering from a bout of COVID – when she read that the plenary council of the Australian Catholic Church had refused to pass two pretty gentle, anodyne motions supporting women in positions of leadership in the church. It felt like ‘a red hot poker’ ran through her.

“Sister Joan, a best-selling American author of more than 50 books, has a large, devoted progressive global following and a profile rare for a nun, being interviewed by Oprah and appearing on Meet the Press. She has spent the past few weeks touring Australia to packed audiences, speaking about the need for renewal in the church, and the need for leaders to listen.

“But after the meeting of the plenary council – the highest formal gathering of all local churches and the first in Australia since 1937 – she called me in a state of flaming indignation: ‘The proof is in. You needn’t wear yourself out trying to convince women that the church really appreciates them, their work, their presence, their talents. They know now – right out of the mouth of the episcopacy that voted against them.’

“So what were these motions the bishops dared not approve?”

By Julia Baird, The Sydney Morning Herald — Read more …

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‘God may be calling us’: Meet the women aspiring to become deacons / America: The Jesuit Review

I do not have a cavalier attitude about ordination. A calling, a vocation, is not something you just carry around in your back pocket no matter what gifts you have.

Anna Keating in America: The Jesuit Review

“I recently attended a listening session for the synod in which the global church is now participating. The priest taking notes for the bishop began the session by saying something along the lines of: ‘Don’t waste your time coming up here and making a comment that asks the church not to be Catholic. Women cannot receive holy orders. This is an infallible teaching of the Catholic Church. No generation in the church will ever see a woman at the altar.’

“It was an odd way to begin a listening session, both because no topic is meant to be off the table at the sessions, and because the statement is false. While the Catholic Church is not considering ordaining women to the priesthood, the ordination of women to the permanent diaconate is a real possibility.

“In 2016 Pope Francis created a commission to study the history of women deacons. This focus on history is notable because it acknowledges that women deacons are an ancient tradition in the church. St. Phoebe is named as deacon in the Bible (Rom 16:1-2). Both the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) and the Council of Chalcedon (451) mention the ordination of women to the diaconate. Chalcedon states, ‘No woman under 40 years of age is to be ordained a deacon,’ thereby suggesting that older women deacons were permitted. As late as the 11th century, the right of the diocesan ordinary to ordain women deacons was confirmed by three consecutive popes. Pope Benedict VIII wrote in 1017, ‘We concede and confirm to your successors in perpetuity every episcopal ordination not only of presbyters but also of deacons or deaconesses.'”

By Anna Keating, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful at 20: Women’s Voices

By Svea Fraser, VOTF trustee and chair of Women’s Emerging Voices

Listen. Can you hear the sound of voices getting louder in support of women’s roles in the Church?

For 20 years VOTF has championed the change for women to be fully recognized as equals in the Church. We took advantage of every opportunity to raise awareness of the needs that would be better met when women have a place at the table. Resources on the website included articles, papers, videos, cards, templates for letter writing and books. One book in particular gave us a laser focus for our ongoing efforts.

The groundbreaking work of theologian Dr. Phyllis Zagano published in the book Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (by Gary Macy, Phyllis Zagano and William T. Ditewig) was a wakeup call for many of us. A free study guide made it possible to hold group discussion groups across the country. We learned things we never knew about women deacons in our faith tradition. Two points were of great significance:

  1. Women ministered as deacons in the past.
  2. The permanent order of deacons is clearly distinct from priestly ordination.

With increasing awareness, we began discussing women deacons at webinars, at lectures, and among networking groups. Women began to ask the question, “What can we do?” Our VOTF Women’s Working Group invited others from across the continent to advocate for women and ultimately formed an “advocacy network.” Invested in our faith communities and ministering in diaconal ways, we were buoyed by others who shared our pains and hopes for inclusion. As we shared these stories, we changed the working group title from “Women’s Roles” to “Women’s Emerging Voices” to better reflect our work.

At the same time, other voices were rising in support of women and their status in the Church: at the meeting of the International Union of Superiors General, at the Amazonian Synod, and in a papal-appointed Commission to study the issue.

In Durham, N.C., another voice also attracted our attention. That was the voice of Casey Stanton, the mother of two young children and holder of a Master of Divinity degree with a certificate in prison studies. When Casey encountered incarcerated women in her prison ministry, she came face to face with the reality of abuse and violence leveled against women.

During Mass one day, Casey made a connection: Because only men preach and preside at Mass, could the implicit message that men are more important than women contribute to their treatment as “less than”? What does our Catholic Liturgy say about women?

Casey wondered if other women wrestled with the same issue, and if they shared her strong vocational desire to preach the Gospel. She initiated conversations to find out. Each individual encounter affirmed that she was not alone. Also affirmed was a feeling that women’s stories needed to be told. From this grew a desire for a liturgical service to engage others in praying and sharing and listening together.

Saint Phoebe’s Feast Day on September third provided an ideal opportunity for a Virtual Prayer Service. Phoebe is the only person named a deacon (in Greek) in the New Testament, yet she was unknown to many of us. Her name is unspoken because the passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 16:1-2 is excluded from both Sunday and weekly lectionary cycles. Saint Phoebe also suffers the indignity of her Feast Day having been replaced by Pope Gregory I.

The first prayer service attracted 500 participants. Four women spoke of their heartfelt callings to minister as deacons, and their deeply felt emotions brought tears of recognition. The experience set hearts on fire.

Thus emerged a movement, a defined mission, and an informative website was created, under the name Discerning Deacons.

VOTF found common ground with Discerning Deacons: Our goals and mission statements harmonized. We joined in collaboration and mutual support. VOTF’s “advocacy network” began to call itself a “Deacon Circle.”

The success and spirited activity that followed is a testament to the power of prayer, the value of story-telling, the dedication of faithful disciples, and the overarching belief that the Holy Spirit will not deny what the Church needs.

The second Virtual St. Phoebe Prayer Service on September 3, 2021, registered 1,500 people from around the world.

From this side of the world, we sponsored an international delegation to Rome: five women from Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States. With the words of St. Paul in mind when he commended his sister Phoebe to be “welcomed in the Lord as is fitting for the saints,” we sent our group with our prayers and an image of St. Phoebe preaching to the faith community.

I believe that Saint Phoebe is interceding on behalf of women today. The Rome delegation was invited to a front row seat at Pope Francis’ weekly audience. When Ellie Hidalgo (a co-director of Discerning Deacons) presented the image of St. Phoebe to the Pope, he accepted it with a smile. And when Sr. Cira Mees told him about her ministry in the Amazon, he looked at her and said, “Firme! Adelante!” (“Keep going forward with inner strength.”). The women were truly welcomed and received “in the Lord.”

As climactic as that event was for us, the story gets better.

In an unprecedented moment in the history of the Church, Pope Francis in 2021 called for a Synod on Synodality. He wants to hear from all the people, both Catholics and non-Catholics, to discern the Holy Spirit’s will for the Church.

When was the last time a pope asked you for your thoughts?

As ancient as synods are in the Church’s tradition, it is a puzzling word for most of us. Pope Francis explains it as simply journeying together. He invites us to walk together, tell our stories, and listen to the Holy Spirit—just as VOTF and Discerning Deacons have been doing all along! Without naming it, we have been synodal in the process of sharing, listening, and discerning.

An inaugural Mass on October 10, 2021, opened the Synodal path. The window for the laity to tell our hurts and hopes for the Church is open right now. Pope Francis wants to hear from you.

Both VOTF and Discerning Deacons, along with other groups and individuals, are offering listening sessions to share your thoughts. Go to the VOTF webpage “Listening to the Faithful: Synod 2021-2023” to register for the opportunity.

It is time to tell your story.

The Pope is listening

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Women religious blaze new trails in roles of authority at the Vatican / Global Sisters Report

Much of the change has been fueled at the top by Pope Francis, who in his nearly decadelong papacy has repeatedly elevated the work of religious women. 

By Christopher White, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

“When Pope Francis met more than 850 religious sisters attending the International Union of Superiors General plenary meeting in Rome in 2019, the pope insisted that the chair for the body’s then-president, Sr. Carmen Sammut, be seated right next to him.

“At the time, both Sammut, a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa, and those in the room were touched by the pope’s deeply symbolic gesture to level the playing field.

“Now, as delegates from around the globe prepare to travel again to Rome for this year’s May 2-6 plenary, a wave of new appointments of sisters inside the Vatican has made it clear that Francis is backing that symbolism up with substantive changes and making room for more women religious to have a permanent seat at the table.

“‘Change takes time,’ said Sr. Patricia Murray, executive secretary of the International Union of Superiors General, which represents 600,000 sisters from around the globe.”

By Christopher White, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter — Read more ...

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Catholic women feel called to be deacons. The church should listen to their stories. / America: The Jesuit Review

“The church has been discerning the question of female deacons for decades. And now the whole church has an opportunity to engage in a discernment about the diaconate.”

America: The Jesuit Review

“Is the church being called to receive women into the permanent order of deacons?

“Are women being called by God to serve as deacons in the church? And what role do Sunday Mass-goers, lapsed Catholics and daily communicants play in discerning responses to such questions?

“In the form of theological studies, sociological research and papal commissions, the church has been discerning the question of female deacons for decades. And now, thanks to the synod that begins this October, the whole church has an opportunity to engage in a discernment about the diaconate.

“In the synod, Pope Francis has called the church to consider the shape of our life together and to listen to one another, to ‘plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands.’ In the context of the synod, ‘all are invited to speak with courage…integrating freedom, truth, and charity.’ In other words: Every Catholic on planet Earth is invited to join together and ask fundamental questions about how we are to journey as the people of God in the 21st century.”

By Casey Stanton, America: The Jesuit Review, Read more …

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Called to Contribute: Findings from an In-depth Interview Study of US Catholic Women and the Diaconate / By Tricia Bruce,

“Women comprise the majority of US Catholics and the majority of lay ministers in the U.S. Catholic Church. While the ordained diaconate remains the exclusive realm of men, women engage in expansive service that overlaps core diaconal functions in word, liturgy, and charity. Many women feel specifically called to be deacons or express an openness to discerning such a call should the vocational path become available to them. Escalating global attention to the question of women and the diaconate compels social scientific research to enhance knowledge regarding how contemporary women experience and fulfill their felt call in the Catholic Church.” By Tricia C. Bruce, Ph.D., author of “Faithful Revolution: How Voice of the Faithful Is Changing the Church”

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Blocked from serving their church, Catholic women push for female deacons / Religion News Service

“We’re looking at the needs of the church today,” said (Casey) Stanton (Discerning Deacons co-founder), who lives in Durham, North Carolina. “Might including women in this order help further the church’s mission in the world?”

Religion News Service

“Casey Stanton wanted to offer encouragement, love and healing to the inmates at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women, where she served as a chaplain intern a few years ago.

“But as a Catholic woman she could not represent her church there in any official capacity.

“The state of North Carolina requires chaplains in its state prison system to be ordained. And the Catholic Church does not ordain women — neither as priests, nor as deacons.

“Stanton, who is 35 and holds a master of divinity from Duke Divinity School, is not seeking to become a priest, which canon law forbids. She would, however, jump at the chance to be ordained a deacon — a position that would allow her and other women to serve as Catholic chaplains in prisons, hospitals and other settings.”

By Yonat Shimron, Religion News Service — Read more …

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Women deacon’s commission to hold first meeting / The Tablet

“Pandemic permitting, members are expected in Rome for a week of discussions beginning on 13 September.”

The Tablet

“Almost two years since Pope Francis announced he would be re-forming a commission on the female diaconate, The Tablet can report it is due to hold its first meeting in Rome in the middle of next month. 

“The gathering of the commission comes just ahead of the launch of a global synod process which will bring lay people, priests and bishops in local churches together to discern new pastoral priorities. Women deacons are sure to be on the agenda. 

“Covid-19 has delayed the deacons’ commission work and the group have not met remotely. Pandemic permitting, members are expected in Rome for a week of discussions beginning on 13 September. Two members of the commission confirmed the September meeting with The Tablet

“An analysis of the commission members suggests an even split between those for and against female deacons, and the danger is a re-run of what happened with the first commission, which the Pope said was unable to reach agreement.”

By Christopher Lamb, The Tablet — Read more …

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Honor the ‘mothers’ of early Christianity during Women’s History Month / National Catholic Reporter

Yet Christian women did not keep silent or remain enclosed. They spoke up about important ecclesial issues, served the marginalized, taught both men and women, and witnessed freely about the Christ with whom they had thrown in their lot. They are great role models for the women and men of today.

National Catholic Reporter

Women’s History Month is a great time to celebrate the ‘mothers’ of our Christian church. Until recently, few realized that early female believers shaped our church’s future no less than their better-known brothers (aka the ‘fathers of the church’).

“On Feb. 14, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI made the rather remarkable statement that ‘without the generous contribution of many women, the history of Christianity would have developed very differently,’ and that the female presence was not ‘in any way secondary.’

“Some early church mothers are relatively well-known while others are all but forgotten. Early writings and funerary inscriptions testify that women served as prophets, evangelists, missionaries, teachers, deacons, presbyters, enrolled widows, and heads of house churches and monasteries.

“Marcella, Paula, Melania the Elder, Melania the Younger and Macrina exercised considerable authority in ancient Christianity. Marcella founded a sort of urban monastery and study group in in Rome that greatly benefited — and benefited from — Jerome’s biblical erudition. When Jerome left for Jerusalem in 385, Rome’s priests began to seek out Marcella for help in understanding the biblical texts.”

By Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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