Oct. 30: Read Letter from a Young Seminarian in Rome after our Campaign during Bishops’ Synod 

Dear Aisha Taylor,

I am a seminarian studying for the priesthood in Rome.  You do not know who I am, but I met you in Rome.  I was dressed casually and not wearing my clerical clothes.  You handed me one of the WOC cards while I was crossing the street.  I simply said thank you and kept on walking, not realizing what it was for at first.

I must tell you that I was so very impressed by how you, Erin Hanna, and the other women from WOC made your presence known in Rome in such a positive way.  It is important for you to understand that your efforts were a great success, more than you realize.  WOC has been out of Rome for almost two weeks now and you are still being talked about at my seminary and I am still seeing your cards and pamphlets around the city.  You inspired many women and men about their faith and women’s equality within our Church.

I will tell you in complete confidence that many of the young seminarians between the ages of 21-35 years old support (privately, of course) the ordination of Catholic women in the Church. It is mostly the older seminarians and priests that have a lot of difficulty with such an idea.

What impressed me and other seminarians about your group’s presence in Rome is the fact that you led the protests in a very respectful and peaceful manner, yet you were very effective and became "the talk of the town" so to speak. 

I can provide you with information about the topics of conversation in the seminary, including the ordination of women.  I will say that many of the older priests and seminarians are truly afraid of WOC and their continued success in our Church and culture, mainly because they do not like change.  However, many unfortunately, also still hold some very sexist views of women.

One thing I’ve learned from growing up with sisters is to respect women — ALWAYS — and I certainly do.  I believe that many women would make excellent, holy priests in our Catholic Church.  The gift, talents and charisma that many women could bring to the office of priesthood are innumerable. 

On the negative side, as much as you have my support, along with other young seminarians, in regards to the WOC and its cause, I do not think the all male priesthood will change in the near future.

However, I do believe it could happen in our lifetimes.  There are still just too many old, set-in-their-ways clergy men still dominating the Church.  Times have changed dramatically for women over the years.  Women have the ability and the power to reach equality with men in all areas of life and they are being successful.

Dear Aisha, I truly support you and WOC.  Unfortunately, I have to contain my support to a private manner, because the sad news is I would be kicked out of the seminary for publicly supporting women’s ordination.  Please forgive me that I cannot support WOC publicly.  I look forward to the day when Catholic women from all over the world reign as Roman Catholic priests in a Church so desperately in need of such women.

Please do put my e-mail on your mailing list, if that is possible.  And more importantly, thank you for your group’s presence in Rome, and how you presented yourself and WOC in a very mature, respectful manner.  You truly inspired me and many other young seminarians.

GOD BLESS YOU,

"A Young Seminarian in Rome"

P.S.  You may use my letter in any way possible on your website.  As long as it is anonymous, I would not get in trouble by the sexist brass in the seminary.

Please note: WOC has altered this letter to keep the identity of the young seminarian a secret in respect for his wishes and position in the seminary.

 

Report on WOC’s campaign in Rome during the Synod of Bishops

Dear WOC Members and Supporters,

We have returned to Washington, DC after an incredibly successful campaign in Rome during the Synod of Bishops.  I am thrilled to share with you photos from our campaign, as well as an update on all of our actions in Rome.  

During the week, we held a press conference and demonstration, hosted an educational forum on women office holders in early Christianity, and toured archaeological sites of significance.  WOC’s actions garnered worldwide attention, not the least from the Italian police, who followed and detained us each time we held an event in St. Peter’s Square.  They even seized our passports, which they returned after recording our names and passport information.  Despite this harassment, WOC witnessed for women’s ordination and accomplished the following:

  • Generated media coverage of the women’s ordination movement in more than 100 media outlets around the world – including Associated Press, International Herald Tribune, the major press agencies in Germany and Italy, as well as in media in Austria, Canada, New Zealand, Nicaragua, the U.K., and Vatican City (see WOC in the News for more details). 
  • Distributed over 1,000 stickers and over 600 fliers to visitors in St. Peter’s Square, including many priests and women religious.
  • Raised public awareness around Rome and in Vatican City, by carrying our banner and by wearing "Ordain Women" t-shirts in nine languages.
  • Educated Catholics about the archaeological sites depicting women’s leadership in early Christianity by arranging a slide show presentation and organizing a tour of the sites.

 

Throughout the week, we and our coalition partners became well-known in Vatican City.  We were highly visible, holding a banner stating "Ordain Catholic Women," wearing our purple stoles, and sporting "Ordain Women" buttons and t-shirts in English, French, Gaelic, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish.  All along our route, we handed out fliers in six languages citing the reasons to ordain women.  Hundreds of women and men smiled and nodded to us, and we educated many about WOC and the need for women’s ordination.

Our conversations with Roman Catholics from around the world reinforced what we knew all along – that a majority of Catholics the world over support women’s ordination.  We engaged in noteworthy dialogue with three young seminarians, who by the end of our conversation, agreed that women’s ordination should at the very least be open for discussion.

In addition to the demonstrations in the public square, we hosted an educational forum on women’s leadership as priests, deacons and bishops in early Christianity with the kind and generous help of a coalition partner, and toured both the catacombs of Priscilla and the Basilica of St. Praxedes (view photos here).

After our tour, we stopped by the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, where Cardinal Bernard Law serves as archpriest.  A pre-Vatican II Mass in Latin was in session, and we decided to participate. With the cardinal’s back to the people and separated by a chain gate, Erin and I put on our purple stoles and "Ordain Women" buttons and stepped up for communion.  We drew a few interested stares, but received Eucharist without incident. 

Regrettably, we did have an incident back at the apartment where we were staying.  In the middle of the night, burglars broke into the apartment and stole our laptops, camera, iPod, cellular phone, and cash.  We are blessed that no one was injured – we did not awaken during the break-in.  While this burglary was upsetting and inconvenient, it was not enough to stop our work.  We carried out all of our campaign activities as planned.

WOC’s campaign succeeded beyond our expectations, and our presence reverberated throughout the streets of Rome. On our final day in St. Peter’s Square handing out literature on women’s ordination, Erin and I were detained one final time.  When we told the Italian police officer that we were headed back to the U.S. the following day, he shouted, "Thanks be to God!" We took it as a compliment. Our hard work had paid off, as the Vatican had taken notice of our campaign. 

Thank you for supporting us during our campaign in Rome.  This could not have happened without the support of members and allies of the Women’s Ordination Conference like you.  A few weeks ago, many of you received a letter asking you to renew your membership with WOC.  Many of you have responded, and we thank you so much!  Your membership contributions and gifts throughout the year keep our work going.  If you have not yet made a contribution, please consider making a donation today so that we can continue our campaigns. 

Thank you for your prayers and support!  You made this trip possible, and we hope you enjoy the pictures and campaign updates.

In peace and struggle,

Aisha S. Taylor

 



 

Read WOC’s Press Release: WOC calls for full and equal participation of women in the Catholic church

Read Statement of Aisha S. Taylor, WOC Executive Director: From Rome, WOC urges Vatican to end discrimination against women

Read WOW’s Press Release: Women’s Ministry: a Reality in the early Church

Read Statement of International Movement We Are Church:  The word of God in life and in the mission of Church