“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
― Arundhati Roy
Margaret Johnson, WOC Board Member
As a feminist Catholic and advocate for women’s ordination, I bring Christ to birth in bearing witness to and helping to build the movements that are transforming our Church. I joined the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) and became more engaged in WOC’s work in the aftermath of the April 2012 Vatican mandate against LCWR and the resulting creation of the Nunjustice Coalition. In the years since, I’ve continually reminded myself of LCWR President Sr. Pat Farrell’s exhortation from that time, “You can crush a few flowers, but you can’t hold back the Spring.”
What strikes me as so inspiring in her words is the inevitability and trust that spring will emerge from the darkness of winter. We are in dark times, in our church and our world. The power of living in this dark pregnancy of winter shows up in the ongoing work that must be done in order to stay in the struggle. This is internal work, spiritual work. It’s prayer. And it can be difficult.
In my time as a WOC board member and in progressive Catholic spaces such as Call To Action and Guerrilla Communion, I’ve had soul-baring conversations with women and men, sharing and holding each other’s dreams and visions, our wounds and battle scars. This internal work is also done by discerning how we are being called, as people dedicated to intersectional social justice work, to continue to renew our practices and challenge our assumptions so that we better reflect the prophetic call of equality and dignity for all in the Church.
I’ve witnessed this force additionally in the outward work of organizing and building this movement. In September, I was honored to be a part of the third Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW) conference: Gender, Gospel, and Global Justice, held in Philadelphia. The WOW conference, representing 19 countries, was a tremendous outpouring of the global community of feminist Catholics who came together to stand up for justice in the Church. A few days later, during the Pope’s visit to Washington, D.C., I watched seven brave people of faith, including four women priests, commit nonviolent civil disobedience outside St. Matthew’s Cathedral and succeed in getting Pope Francis’ attention. Their signs read: “Pope Francis: Ordain Women,“ “Primacy of Conscience,” “Women Priests are Here” and “Lift Excommunication.”
Action for women’s ordination in September 2015 in Washington, DC
These were powerful, prophetic events. It might seem that the energy and exuberance that was felt in their midst would indicate that these moments, indeed, were marking the coming of our inevitable Spring. But in reality we are still in the darkness. We feel the biting cold, surrounded by the vastness of the night sky, and we are temped to feel overwhelmed. We find ways to stay present and celebrate. We create light for each other in small ways, knowing that the daylight grows a little longer each day. Soon, our seeds will sprout and the flowers will bloom. And the bright light of the sun will finally shine down on our vision realized of a Church that welcomes all at the table.
Margaret Johnson is a massage therapist and life coach living in Washington, D.C. and serves on the board of directors of the Women’s Ordination Conference. She has served as a Jesuit volunteer, a Catholic Worker, and a parish social justice minister. This post is cross-posted on the Call To Action blog here.