The following “A Church for Our Daughters” testimony was given outside of the USCCB meeting in Huntington, CA on June 14, 2016 by WOC Co-Director, Erin Saiz Hanna:
This September I am expected to bring a baby girl into this world. Like so many moms, I dream of a world
Left to right: Glen Northern, Regina Bannan, Erin Saiz Hanna
that is better — more equal — for our daughters than the one we had growing up. As an advocate for women and girls, it has been my mission to help shatter glass ceilings wherever the exist in Church and society.
As a young girl, I used to play priest all time. I baptized Cabbage Patch Kid dolls and the officiated the wedding ceremonies of neighborhood pals. I knew I could make a great Catholic priest but I also knew that because of my gender that being a priest was simply not an option. For many young girls this translates as “well, there must be something wrong with me then” or “I guess I am not good enough because I’m a girl.” The phrase “if she can see it, she can be it” is powerful one. The only way to truly empower girls is for them to see women in all levels of leadership and authority.
Having spent my entire childhood in a Catholic bubble – a small Catholic school, in a small town, in the smallest state and the most Catholic one – it wasn’t until college that I saw an Episcopal woman priest in clerics. I sobbed throughout her entire service. The sight of woman who was able to answer her call to serve was a sight that I had never realized I was so desperate to see and was missing in my life. And yet I left that day knowing woman priests were still not an option in my religion.
My 5 year old son, Nico, has been fortunate enough to grow up knowing Roman Catholic Womenpriests. I am grateful to the RCWP/ARCWP movement for modeling what our institutional Church could be. He only recently learned that these women are not welcomed and excommunicated by the official Roman Catholic Church. It makes absolutely no sense to him because he knows them as good, compassionate priests and friends. It’s hard as mom to sit down and explain to my child that this is what sexism is and looks like.
Women’s leadership is imperative in all aspects of church and society and it is long overdue that our Church opens the door to the ordination of women.
We call out sexism when we see it in our schools, the workplace, and in politics, but when it comes to the Catholic Church, far too many look the other way. Women make up over 80% of parish administrators positions and yet, women are leaving the church in record numbers at the same time. Young girls are told that “you can be anything that want to be” and they believe it and see it to be true. How can I tell my daughter she can grow up to be anything she wants if it is not true in our own religion?
Earlier this month, here in the U.S., girls witnessed a woman become the presumptive presidential nominee of major party for the first time in our history. Ceilings are shattering in our society but the stained-glass ceiling of our Church is a thick as ever. Many young girls will not stay in Church that denies them equal dignity and worth. Our church has crisis on its hands and the only way we can begin to solve the crisis is by working together to shatter the stained-glass ceiling and to build a church for daughters that is truly justice and equal.
I pray the our Bishops receive our message today.