Development of the Mission, Key Turning Points

A variety of events and influences—major turning points—called forth a deepening and broadening of WOC’s mission as it had been originally understood. In 1975, the understanding of the importance of getting women ordained was essentially a political understanding. This was the era of the Equal Rights Amendment. The Vatican Council II document, Gaudium et Spes, called for “reading the signs of the times.” Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical, Pacem in Terris, had pointed out that women were now ever more conscious of their dignity and worth. To seek the ordination of women in 1975 was to seek an acknowledgment of women’s full valuation—of their equality in the Church.

By 1978, only three years later, much had already changed. The organization had grown by leaps and
bounds, to a membership exceeding three thousand, most of whom attended a second national conference, held in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1978. The program was headlined, “It’s time to lay to rest the heresy that women cannot image Jesus in the priesthood.” This was a response to the above mentioned Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Inter Insignores: A Declaration Against the Ordination of Women, which stated that women could not image Jesus, and therefore, could not be priests. At this point, the proponents of women’s ordination were not simply saying that ordination was necessary for women’s equality. Outraged by what they saw as a new and specious argument based on a faulty Christology, they responded in force with a burst of new scholarship, critiquing the hastily conceived “new theology” of the encyclical. This second conference in Baltimore was already stating the need for a renewed priestly ministry. It challenged the fundamentalism of the clericalist system.

A fter being fired up at this conference, a group of WOC members gathered broken chains, drove to the annual bishop’s meeting in Washington, D.C., and made their presence known, much to the surprise of the bishops. Television cameras recorded the event and broadcast it on the evening news. Thus, WOC discovered the power of media coverage, and the value of the press conference, which WOC continues to use in its work for equality and justice for women in the church.

In response, the Bishops’ Committee on Women in the Church invited the demonstrating women to meet that day. In addition, Bishop Dingman stood on the floor of the bishop’s meeting and called for dialogue with the Women’s Ordination Conference on the issue of women priests. In 1979, the bishops met with WOC women and agreed to engage in dialogue on the issue. Talks were held at the Marriottsville Spiritual Center near Baltimore and in Chicago. Rosemary Radford Reuther later described them as “a non-meeting of the minds.” “They don’t want us, they never wanted us, they are never going to want us [ordained],” lamented Marge Tuite after one particularly frustrating session. The women actually walked out and boycotted the meetings for one day. The talks, nevertheless, resumed and continued for about three years. The impact of these real, live and priestly women on the bishops during these meetings is beyond measuring.

As a way of nourishing one another and to keep alive the issue of ordination, conferences were planned and held several times during the next twenty years. In the late 1970′s, the office and staff moved to Rochester, NY and began publishing the NewWomen, NewChurch newsletter, which WOC continues to publish quarterly. The office staff traveled extensively, meeting with WOC supporters and helping them to organize local groups all around the country. In some years, interest in the organization grew. At other times it flagged. Money was always in scarce supply. An upswing in interest and membership seemed to coincide with papal visits to this country or with publications of statements against women’s ordination.

Confronting the Pope

A turning point occurred in 1979 when Pope John Paul II came to the United States. Across the country, progressive women and men wore blue armbands and protested against sexism in the church. Three WOC members held an all night vigil in Washington, D.C. where the Pope was staying. As he emerged early in the morning, Ruth Fitzpatrick held her candle high, and greeted him with the words, “Ordain Women!” The Pope smiled and shook his head in a negative reply. Later that morning at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Sister Theresa Kane, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), gave a speech to a full house of women religious in which she recommended to the Pope (who was sitting nearby) to permit women to serve in all ministries of the church. Thirty other nuns, arms banded in blue, stood during all the talks that morning, adding a visual statement and making national headlines along with Theresa Kane.

Growing the Movement

WOC members tried other forms of activism as well. By 1980, they were sponsoring “Skills in Feminist Perspectives” workshops and scheduling retreats nationwide. The WOC office moved to Greenwich Village for a while, then returned to Washington, D.C., then moved to northern Virginia. With the office staff and the second CORE Commission steering the organization, WOC sponsored the 1984 “Ordination Reconsidered” conference in St. Louis attended by 200 women called to ordination.

Over the years, specialized sub-groups formed to pursue particular agendas within the larger mission. One such group, RAPPORT, a covenanted community of women seeking Roman Catholic ordination as soon as possible, took on the task of resuming direct dialogue with sympathetic bishops. This group was formed at the 1984 conference in St. Louis and it began its work in 1986 in response to the pulling back from women’s ordination by another group of WOC women, Women-Church, founded in 1983.

In the years of 1983-1992, the newly organized movement known as Women-Church explored the larger question of women’s religious empowerment in a series of conferences. This was also a period of great richness in the field of feminist theology and Scripture scholarship. Many women were attending seminary programs with the expectation on their part that the reasonable conclusions drawn by the scholars would result in a change of policy by the institution. Other women, particularly those doing the research and writing, were much more skeptical. Their analysis of the nature of the problem was that no reasonable argument would move the entrenched institution. Women-Church, a movement calling for women to create their own communities of worship and spirituality, was born in 1983.

During the mid-eighties, many WOC women put their energies into organizing Women-Church and into lobbying for inclusive language in liturgy and scripture. Others left in frustration to be ordained in other denominations.

Also at this time, the bishops began to write a pastoral letter on women. WOC testified in hearings held by the bishop’s writing committee, advising against the pastoral, calling it basically flawed. It made women rather than sexism in the church the problem.

In an effort to influence the process of the pastoral, women were encouraged to “Take a Bishop to Breakfast,” to participate in Holy Thursday foot-washing and prayer vigils outside churches, and to write letters to bishops as well as to newspapers. Some women met directly with bishops on a regular basis. This pastoral failed to get enough votes for passage in 1992 after several rewrites and nearly ten years of effort on the part of some working for it and others, including WOC, working against it.

Developments in the 1990s

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of WOC, a third national conference was held in Washington, D.C. called “ Gathering ‘95: Discipleship of Equals, Breaking Bread/Doing Justice.” Here, the true nature of renewed priestly ministry was passionately discussed. It was held November 10-12, 1995, and keynote speakers Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Diana Hayes, as well as theologian Mary Hunt, made it clear that they believed that ordination into the Roman Catholic system would result in nothing but subordination within a patriarchal system. They encouraged conference participants to engage in various feminist ministries instead, apart from the official priesthood. The aftermath of this conference proved to be a significant turning point for the movement in the U.S.A. Hayes and Schüssler Fiorenza challenged participants to see the complexity of the forces which oppressed us—calling it the kyriarchy, interlocking systems of domination that include oppression based on race, class, gender, and more. This caused WOC members to realize that WOC needed to widen the circle, to have more input from many other communities and sources of wisdom to achieve a better understanding of what was meant by a renewed priestly ministry. Those determined to continue the struggle for women’s ordination turned their attention to rebuilding their constituency, and even to bringing their agenda to new constituencies. In the process of reaching out, listening to new people’s ideas and forming alliances with other groups, WOC’s vision became more universal, more oriented toward an inclusive ministry.

The Founding of the Young Feminist Network

Another major event occurred at the 1995 gathering. A group of over thirty young women, ranging in age from seventeen to thirty-five, met to share their ideas, frustrations, and hopes about WOC and the Catholic Church. The meeting was rife with energy and emotion, and it was the forerunner of what would soon be a program of WOC, the Young Feminist Network (YFN).

The young women at the meeting raised two main issues: wanting women’s ordination to be more integrated into not only their daily lives but their various faith communities, and the need for a stronger visible leadership presence of young women within the movement. Other issues included how to increase the presence of women of color, young women with children, and how, or if, to integrate supportive male friends. Some issues related to intergenerational work: how young women often feel patronized by older women, frustration at why they are sometimes valued for some obscure “future” contribution and anger at tokenism.

The participants called for a group in WOC that would provide a space for their creative vision and for these issues to be addressed. YFN became a reality in 1996 with very little money, and largely through the tireless efforts of then-WOC staffer, Kerry Danner-McDonald, who coordinated the program visioning, planning and fundraising for YFN. In the next few years, YFN grew, forming a leadership team, sponsoring retreats and leadership conferences for young women. While it was not required that YFN members be avid proponents of women’s ordination, many YFN women became enthusiastic supporters of the WOC agenda. Today, several of WOC’s recent or current board members were introduced to WOC through YFN. Furthermore, WOC’s office staff has been led by women in their 20’s and 30’s since 2003.

Also in 1996, Andrea Johnson became the National Coordinator of WOC, succeeding Ruth Fitzpatrick who led the organization for more than a decade. In 1992, Ruth Fitzpatrick led a trip to the Czech Republic to find Ludmila Javorova, one of the women who was ordained a priest in the underground Catholic Church of Communist Czechoslovakia. Five years later, Andrea Johnson and the WOC staff brought Javorova to the United States for private meetings with WOC groups and friends. In 2001, Miriam Therese Winter published Out of the Depths: The Story of Ludmila Javorova, Ordained Roman Catholic Priest. Copies are available for purchase through the WOC
office.

Another important result of the determination to grow the movement following the 1995 conference was the effort to meet with leaders of other women’s ordination groups from around the world at the first European Women’s Synod in 1996 in Gmunden, Austria. Attending to represent WOC was Andrea Johnson and Silvia Cancio, then-president of WOC’s board. The goal was to form an international coalition of like-minded groups to bring greater pressure to bear worldwide for women’s full inclusion in all ordained ministries of the church. Seventy-five women attended the organizing meeting. Representatives from six countries drew up an initial mission statement and charter—Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW) was born. Andrea Johnson, as WOC’s executive director, served as the first coordinator of WOW, from July 1996-October 1998. Within six months of its founding, eleven
countries were involved — within a year, fifteen countries; and within two years, 21 countries on all five inhabited continents including New Zealand! The age of e-mail had arrived; so much activism was possible with few resources and in swift time. WOW’s first international conference in Dublin, Ireland, in July of 2001 with 350 participants representing 26 countries, demonstrated handily that Catholic women around the globe were on the same page. They wanted women ordained, they wanted a renewed church and priesthood, and they wanted to work in partnership with men. Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, the keynote speaker, noted that there were only about 30 men present and charged the conference participants to come to the next conference with at least one man each. She made it clear that a renewed church with a renewed ministry was the business of both women and men.

Moving into a New Millennium

In 2000, WOC celebrated “WOC 2000: If Roman Catholic Women Were Ordained Today” in Milwaukee, Wisc., and celebrated 25 years of working for justice by honoring the foremothers of the women’s ordination movement. At the conference, issues of diversity and inclusion emerged, with participants asking the question, why aren’t more women of color involved? Sheila Briggs, an African American Catholic religious studies scholar, stated that ordination is by its very nature an elitist practice, one that by definition excludes women (and men) who are not highly educated. She asked, “when will the poor begin to celebrate the Eucharist?”

Two key events took place shortly thereafter. In Rochester, N.Y., Corpus Christi (now Spiritus Christi) Church, an exemplary parish of the diocese, decided to form its own Catholic community apart from the diocese, due to the removal in 1998 of Fr. Jim Callan and the firing of seven staff members, including Mary Ramerman. Ramerman, who was the associate pastor, was fired because she refused to obey Bishop Matthew Clark’s demands that she remove her alb and stole and not go near the altar during church services. Bishop Clark was under pressure from Rome because the Vatican had trouble with three practices dear to the heart of Corpus Christi parishioners: the prominent role of women on the altar, the blessing of gay unions, and the offering of communion to those who were not Catholic.

Disillusioned by the firings, parishioners wanted to move on and stop battling the diocese. On January 30, 1999, 500 parishioners gathered and decided to form a new faith community, calling it Spiritus Christi Church. They called Mary Ramerman, Fr. Jim Callan, and Enrique Cadena to be their spiritual leaders. Spiritus Christi held its first weekend masses on February 13-14, 1999, and over 1,100 people attended. Ten days later, the diocese declared that the members of the new community had excommunicated themselves.

Mary Ramerman was ordained on November 17, 2001 by Bishop Peter Hickman, representatives of Spiritus Christi, and Catholic and interfaith clergy from around the world. Nearly 3,000 people attended, including WOC’s then-program director Joy Barnes. In the spring of 2002, Denise Donato was ordained a deacon. After a year of preparation, she was ordained a priest on February 22, 2003 — again by Bishop Peter Hickman, the Spiritus Christi community, and interfaith clergy. Here was an exemplary parish’s statement of faith in an inclusive priesthood.

The other happening was the “illicit” ordinations of seven women as priests on the Danube River between Austria and Germany on June 29, 2002. Bishop Romulo A. Braschi of Argentina ordained Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger and Sr. Adelinde Theresia Roitinger (of Austria), Dr. Gisela Forster, Dr. Iris Müller, Dr. Ida Raming and Pia Brunner (of Germany) and Dagmar Celeste (under the pseudonym Angela White, of Austria and the U.S.A).

As a young priest, Braschi had broken with the hierarchy because it supported dictatorships. He ministered independently, eventually marrying. He was consecrated a bishop on January 30, 1999 by Gerónimo José Podesta, Liberation Theologian and Roman Catholic Bishop Emeritus of Avellaneda.Although Braschi was not in good standing with Vatican, the sacraments he performs are still valid. Historical precedent dictates that the validity of sacraments does not depend on the standing of priests or bishops. Marriages, baptisms, and all sacraments are valid even if the priest or bishop is not in good standing with Vatican. Therefore, it doesn’t matter that Braschi was not in good standing with the Vatican in terms of the validity of the sacrament of ordination conferred on the seven women. The point is, Braschi stands in the line of apostolic succession and so do the Danube Seven.

On July 10, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a monitum (canonical warning) that the women would be excommunicated unless they say their ordinations were invalid and repent by July 22, the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. All seven women ordained on the Danube were formally excommunicated by January 2003

WOC was among the few organizations that were immediately publicly supportive of the group that coordinates these ordinations, which is now called the Roman Catholic Womenpriests. WOC reported the ordinations in NewWomen, NewChurch and released press statements in support of the brave women (read WOC’s Press Release from July 3, 2002).

The following summer, Christine Mayr-Lumtzberger and Gisela Forster were ordained bishops in a secret ceremony by three male bishops in good standing with the Vatican. Their names are kept secret in order to avoid severe punishment by the Vatican; however, RCWP has documentation for the event from the notary and eye-witnesses that were present.

A year later, on June 26, 2004, six women were ordained to the diaconate by Forster and Mayr-Lumetzberger on the Danube River, the location of the first ordinations. The next year, on July 25, 2005, the first ordinations in North America took place on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Four women were ordained as priests, and five as deacons by Forster, Mayr-Lumtzberger and Patricia Fresen, a South African woman who had been ordained a priest in August of 2003, then a bishop in January 2005.

The first ordinations in the U.S.A. took place in Pittsburgh, Penn., on July 31, 2006, with Forster, Fresen, and Ida Raming, one of the Danube Seven who was ordained a bishop in June 2006, presiding. The ordinations included eight women as priests and four as deacons, and they received unprecedented coverage in the media. The ordinands and WOC leaders were quoted in most major U.S. newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and many more.

The RCWP ordinations continued in 2007, with 21 people (nineteen women and two men) being ordained in seven different ordination ceremonies throughout the U.S., from Quebec, Canada, to Santa Barbara, Calif. As of October
2007, there are 37 people ordained in the RCWP program in North America (24 priests and 13 deacons).   The are currently over 150 people in the program worldwide, including those already ordained. RCWP is supported by over five European Roman Catholic male bishops in good standing with the Vatican who decided to cross the line on this issue. For more information, visit www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org

While RCWP has ordained the largest number of women, during the same time, the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, and many small faith communities have ordained women as priests and deacons as well. These ordinations have added an entirely new dimension to WOC’s work, and in response to the changing terrain of the movement, WOC developed the Three Ministries.

A New Focus: WOC’s Three Ministries

In 2003, WOC’s Board of Directors launched the Three Ministries in order to encompass the different opinions and strategies regarding the best way to go about advocating women’s full inclusion in all ordained ministries of the Catholic Church. They focus WOC’s programming on the three most common areas of thought and action within the movement. Within the ministries themselves, there are differences of opinion and strategy, and by creating only three, we are not attempting to say there are only three perspectives. Like any social movement, we need a continuum of actions to bring about our vision. We need some people to be public in their witness for women’s ordination to keep attention on the issue, we need some to serve as examples of women in ministry within Roman Catholic structures, and we need some to take the steps they deem necessary to live out their call right now.

As we move forward, we must maintain integrity to our Catholic roots and traditions, yet we must also be open to the new directions and expanded horizons of the Holy Spirit. This is probably the most difficult struggle the movement faces right now. What are the elements that we hold on to—what is essential to our catholic identity? Conversely, what prophetic examples and actions is the Holy Spirit leading us to? Right now, we must figure out how to hold these two questions in tension as we work together to answer them. And, we must not silence each other when differences arise. We must engage our differences, be honest with each other, and learn from our
various perspectives. The Three Ministries provide a way to unite the movement so we can learn from our different perspectives and opinions. When we are united, we are better equipped to create the constantly renewing priestly ministry that Jesus and his disciples modeled for us.

  • Ministry of Irritation works to change Vatican policies regarding women by educating and raising public awareness about the need for women’s ordination and structural change in the church.
  • Ministry of Walking With Women Called supports and provides resources for women discerning if they are called to ordination into a renewing priestly ministry, for women who know they are called and are discerning how to proceed, and for women in an ordination formation process.
  • Ministry of Prophetic Obedience promotes and supports the ministries of women who are making positive differences in the Catholic Church and the world.

Click here for more information about the projects of the Three Ministries.

Current Events of the Young Feminist Network

The current mission of the Young Feminist Network (YFN), is to equip and mobilize young Catholic women to integrate faith with feminism and to eliminate oppression within ourselves, society and the Roman Catholic Church. YFN is a national community of feminist Catholic women in their 20’s and 30’s. While maintaining our Roman Catholicism, YFN strives to make connections with women of all faith traditions and spiritualities. YFN activities focus on the following goals:

Goals:

  • Create an inclusive Roman Catholic Church : We work toward changing and creating church structures that are fully inclusive, affirming and participatory.
  • Eliminate oppression : We work to eliminate oppression and discrimination in ourselves, our families, our peers, our communities, and our church.
  • Promote community faith life : We empower young women to participate in community faith life through parishes or faith sharing groups.
  • Provide leadership opportunities : We provide young women with training and opportunities to develop skills in leadership and prophetic advocacy.
  • Encourage healthy and diverse expressions of sexuality : We encourage young women to use their moral authority to make decisions about their sexuality, gender identity, and all other aspects of their body.

To work toward the above goals, YFN hosts national events, builds YFN chapters in local communities, and works in collaboration with WOC members to plan events that advocate women’s ordination and structural change in the church.

YFN’s national events provide leadership training for young Catholic women. In January 2006, YFN hosted a national Meet-Up that set the foundation for the wave of growth YFN had seen in 2005. One result of this Meet-up was the formation of the Los Angeles chapter of Young Feminist Network. So far, they have hosted separate discussions with two of the most celebrated feminist theologians of the past century: Rosemary Radford Ruether and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. Another result was the election of a new leadership team composed of six women—two Latinas, one African American, and three white women. YFN’s commitment to diversity on the national leadership team has been helpful in making YFN more diverse and inclusive. For example, the next national event in Chicago on August 16-17, 2007,l included diversity and inclusion training, as well as and education on the different types of feminist theology, including womanist, mujerista/Latina, and Asian feminist theologies. Also at the Chicago event, YFN members participated in interactive workshops on leadership, grassroots activism, strategic planning and spiritual nourishment in order to further develop their plan of action.

Building YFN chapters helps promote community faith life and develop feminist spirituality in community. For example, the Washington, DC chapter of YFN (DC YFN), which was re-organized in 2005, has an active leadership team that organizes monthly faith sharing communities, social events, and protest demonstrations. There are currently over 80 members. DC YFN has demonstrated that interactive events and opportunities for reflection keep members interested and actively involved.

Intentional Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice

Within the context of our mission to create a renewed priestly ministry, Women’s Ordination Conference has not been unaware of the issue of racism, and WOC leadership has initiated different forms of work in racial and ethnic diversity throughout its 32-year herstory. However, before 2006, WOC had not addressed racism in a sustained, systematic, and intentional way.

In 2001, the interest in doing anti-oppression work was piqued after the Young Feminist Network (YFN) Mexico Retreat held in Cuernavaca. Carmen Lane, Principal of The Lane Leota Group and a self-described black Catholic lesbian feminist, brought up the dynamics of race, sexuality and privilege that played out during the event, which initiated a discussion among the retreat participants. Lane’s comments inspired then-program director, Joy Barnes, and then-Board member, Theresa Trujillo, to call for a commitment to anti-oppression work during a presentation at the fall 2001 Board of Directors meeting. As a result of this meeting, Barnes participated in a three weekend anti-racism training facilitated by the Leaven Center in the fall of 2001.

In 2003, Barnes became executive director following Genevieve Chavez, and she secured a two-year grant for $5,000 to support addressing race, poverty, and gender from the Sisters of Charity Ministry Foundation. The grant paid for the development of a presentation about the how a renewed priestly ministry included addressing the issues of racial justice, which Barnes presented at the CTA Conference in 2004.

In May 2004, the Board decided to set aside specific blocks of time at every Board meeting to discuss strategies to make WOC anti-racist, diverse and inclusive. In September 2004, WOC hired Aisha Taylor as program director, who had experience in diversity training and institutional change, to develop WOC’s diversity and inclusion initiative.

During a discussion facilitated by Barnes and Taylor at the November 2004 Board meeting, the Board decided to use the term “anti-oppression” and acknowledged that our society is a “kyriarchy,” a term Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza coined to describe the complex interweaving of oppressions. However, the Board decided to begin the anti-oppression work with a focus on dismantling racism within WOC’s structure due to the recent resignations of two women of color from the Board, Lane and Trujillo, and the fact that WOC’s membership and leadership has been predominantly and disproportionately European-American for its entire history.

In 2005, Taylor participated in ten full days of anti-racism training through Call to Action’s Anti-Racism Team (CTA ART) as a WOC representative, which aided her in creating a proposal for WOC’s plan of action to address racism in a sustained, systematic, and intentional way.

In February 2006, the WOC Board approved the plan of action to incorporate anti-racism, diversity and inclusion in WOC. The plan laid out a vision and strategy for the initiative, mandated two full-day trainings for the Board and Staff, and approved the formation of an anti-racism team.

In May 2006, the Board participated in the first day of anti-racism training, and Taylor, as executive director, planned and facilitated the training. In May 2007, the Board and Staff participated in a full-day anti-racism training with Cynthia Burton, a consultant from Jones and Associates, Inc, a diversity and organizational change consulting firm. With the two full days of anti-racism training for the Board and Staff complete, the design of the team is currently being developed.


Key People and Organizations

In the telling of WOC’s history, it is important to remember and name persons and groups who have been key to the survival and the success of the movement for women’s ordination over these many years. WOC was not without its antecedents. It drew inspiration from an organization already active in both the U.S. and the U.K. called St. Joan’s Alliance. Founded in 1911, St. Joan’s Alliance worked for women’s suffrage as well as women’s ordination, seeing the two as deeply connected.

There are literally hundreds that could be named. This movement is living proof that it takes a village! But a few will be named whose vision, tenacity and courage have inspired and empowered us all: Dolly Pomerleau, Bill Callahan, Ruth Fitzpatrick and Maureen Fiedler—present at the creation, fearless and powerful spokespersons
against the injustice of the ban on women’s ordination. Marjorie Tuite, OP, brilliant analyst and truth-telling empowerer; Joan Sobala, SSJ and Marsie Silvestro, and Rosalie Muschall Reinhardt—faithful women, keeping the lamp burning in dark times; Theresa Kane, RSM, Betty Carroll, RSM, and Mary Luke Tobin, SL, gentle yet courageous women who spoke truth to power; Donna Quinn, gentle model of open, inclusive and joyful ministry with a wonderful gift of humor; Bishops Frank Murphy and Ray Lucker, members of the hierarchy who accepted marginalization by their peers to keep the dialogue going on women’s ordination; Rosemary Radford Ruether and Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza, Ada Maria Isasi Diaz, Diana Hayes, Diann Neu, and Miriam Therese Winter, great feminist theologians and liturgists, sifting out the true and the beautiful to empower women; Kerry Danner-McDonald, visionary creator of the Young Feminist Network; Ida Raming, a member of WOC for 25 years, Iris Mueller, Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, Gisela Forster and Patricia Fresen, now bishops and animators of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. These are but a few among many who have given so unstintingly of their time, their expertise, their treasure—of the very essence of themselves—to keep us moving forward toward our goal.

Our Alliances Have Educated Us For This Moment

WOC understands that getting women ordained is not only about justice for women; it is really a question of justice for all people in the church. A key piece in moving the question of an inclusive priesthood forward, a priesthood modeling the partnership of women and men in ministry, has been WOC’s participation in the coalition known as Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR). There, WOC learned of other organizations such as CORPUS, Federation of Christian Ministries, Dignity, Celibacy Is the Issue, FutureChurch and others who were grappling with these questions of justice: justice for married priests and their families; justice for un-served and underserved Catholics; justice for those who wished to prepare for ministry, but were excluded from Catholic institutions. We shared our concerns, and our fears. The groups do not always agree, but they learned one another’s stories and often made common cause, particularly in the late 1990s, when Vatican retrenchment on all of our issues became so painfully obvious.

By coming to grips with our fears and our differences, we have come to see the larger picture. We have come to see that the ministry must mirror the People of God. It must be inclusive in order to be authentic.

Sources

Go to the History Photo Gallery