The Table
Laura Singer at WOC's 35th Anniversary

Laura Singer at WOC’s 35th Anniversary

Several Catholic reform groups hosted a gathering at the Chicago Theological Seminary on Saturday for a full day of topics on “What Pope Francis Needs to Know” about women in the Church. Panelists and speakers discussed topics ranging from Catholic church governance to contraception, culminating in a declaration on women. On account of time differences and location, I was only able to catch a few presentations on the livestream, but I was proud to see so many WOC members and former board members on the bill. Way to go! 

Former WOC Board president and one of the founding members of our “Young Feminist Network,” Laura Singer, spoke on a panel with Sr. Chris Schenk and Trish Sullivan Vanni, moderated by Nicole Sotelo, called: “Call to Serve but Nowhere to Go.”

The idea of sharing our ideas with Pope Francis enticed me to join this panel. It was energizing to think Pope Francis may actually be the type of leader who would listen and take our comments to heart. At the same time, when I look at the title of this talk Called to Serve with No where to Go I feel sad and angry – really we are still talking about this – what women are allowed to do vs. men??!! In 2015?!

Having worked with Laura for several years, it was so refreshing to hear her sensible and action-oriented perspective — something I appreciated greatly during her time on the WOC board!

In the late 80s in high school, when I asked about women priests, my high school religion teacher told me that the US was ready for women priests but the rest of the world wasn’t. In my small town sheltered America-centric world view – that answer kept me quiet for a few years. So I worked as an office assistant in the rectory in high school and ran a service learning program out of the campus ministry office in college. I kept living out my faith through retreat work and service projects. I was on the hiring committee for a campus minister just before my senior year of college. The campus minister that I recommended hiring was hired and his first event was taking a group to the Call To Action Conference. I felt obligated to go and got on a van early in the morning not sure where I was going. I read the brochure as we got closer to the hotel and saw a panel on women priests – what could this be. I entered a room with standing room only and heard Ruth Fitzpatrick a former executive director of WOC describing her protest in front of the US Bishops Meeting. The room was packed with people who supported women’s ordination and were doing something about it – I wasn’t alone anymore. I quickly learned about the decades old movement and became an activist myself with a large community of support.

So one take away for Pope Francis is that my story is now more than 40 years old. It took me 20 some years to find likeminded people so maybe the Pope hasn’t found his supportive non sexist community yet either – so I’d say here we are!!! Here’s where you can find us and there are a lot of us and we want to work with you!

Perhaps Pope Francis has been so busy with all the Vatican protocol and such that –  all the petitions we’ve delivered to the Vatican over the years, the banners we’ve hung throughout the world,  and the Pink Smoke we burned in Rome just haven’t caught his attention and he really doesn’t know who we are as a church reform Community – I’d give him a quick overview.

The organization that I’ve had the greatest role with is the  Women’s Ordination Conference. 

Laura’s presentation calls on Pope Francis to do little Googling (although quick sidebar: despite being spotted using an ipad over the weekend and his millions of Twitter followers, Pope Francis has said he is a “dinosaur” and doesn’t know how to use a computer! So, first things first… but then on to the important stuff… ):

He would find all the data supporting women’s ordination,

  • the countless scriptural studies, dissertations,
  • reviews of the 1976 Pontifical Biblical Commission finding no scriptural evidence to prohibit women’s ordination; (“It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate.”)
  • the story of Ludmila Javorova who was validly ordained in 1970 in Communist Czechoslovakia to minister to Catholic women prisoners,
  • he can sign up for one of Dr. Dorothy Irvin’s tours to see firsthand the archeological evidence of women priests in the early church,
  • he could read Fr. Roy Bourgeois’ New York Times editorial calling on his brother priests to end the sin of sexism

Yes it’s direct. But life is short we need to move this discussion along. The pope may ask – well how do we do that? Well – glad you asked.

I recommend watching Laura detail her plans for Pope Francis to Ordain Women Now. Here is her presentation in full:

It is encouraging to hear these conversations happening back in the U.S. — feels like a real booster shot for a rhetoric and passion that I haven’t found in Italy yet (at least in the form of a community). From my experience, the declining Mass attendance numbers found in the U.S. are the same for Italy, and yet the counterbalancing growth of networked reform groups does not exist in the same way.

WOWlogo1This forum presented just a handful of the many conversations our Church must have collectively and globally. I hope we can continue these conversations and this energy at the Women’s Ordination Worldwide conference in September, where supporters from around the world will gather to learn, share and find solidarity in working toward women’s full equality in our Church.

Pope Francis, we’ve heard that you’ll be in Philadelphia this September. So will we! … we would love for you to join us – have your people contact my people and I’m sure we can get you and your Vatican crew a great deal!

Thanks to Laura Singer for providing the text of her presentation, as well as all those who represented WOC at the forum. Wonderful to see Christine Haider-Winnett, former co-president of WOC speak on behalf of “Equally Blessed,” and the list goes on. Well done, and thanks to the organizers (especially for making the event available online). Please share your impressions of the day’s events in the comments below — I’d love to hear how you felt the day went!