Women in the ChurchRead Now
Have you ever wondered about women and their place in the Catholic Church? I have. When I was little, I wanted to be the Pope (before I decided my dream was to become President, of course). Only then did I discover that since I was a girl, I could not become the Pope. That infuriated me as a small child, and sparked my interest in learning more about my life’s vocation as a woman of faith. Only as I have grown older have I begun to learn how I can actively participate in my faith traditions, as a layperson and as a woman.
Women have a role in our faith. We are witnesses and called to be exemplary versions of ourselves. We are called by Christ to function in our Church using our own gifts, talents, and love. The example of women leaders in our Church shines through to us in the lives of many female saints and other women in our Church who used their femininity to do God’s will. We read about Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Mary who were friends and followers of Jesus and who were with him throughout his ministry on earth. Later in the 14th century we see St. Catherine of Siena, who helped bring the papacy back to Rome. St. Clare of Assisi founded the female religious order similar to Franciscans. St. Therese of Lisieux is a Doctor of the Church, thanks to Blessed Pope John Paul II. These women and countless others have made their mark on the Church in critical and defining ways, allowing other women to look up to them and see how to live out God’s love through actions and service. In Mulieris Dignitatem, a 1988 apostolic letter by Blessed Pope John Paul II, he says, “Holy women are the incarnation of the feminine ideal.” This tells us to follow the example of the holy women in our Church, who taught us all a great deal about the special place women hold.
The New Evangelization needs women to be examples of true womanhood. What is a true example of womanhood, you might ask? Who do we look to for guidance? Well, Mary, the Mother of God is a perfect place to begin. In the Blessed Mother, we see a sinless woman, courageous and steadfast in her faith, who said the ultimate “Yes” to God at a young age. In the face of adversity and rejection, she showed how strong her faith was by bearing the Son of God and then delivering her child in a stable. No simple feat! Throughout Jesus’ life, she was with him, both in person and in prayer. When he was lost and teaching in the temple, she worried like any mother would about her son, then pondered these things in her heart; at the Wedding of Cana, she knew when he needed a nudge to begin his ministry; at the foot of the cross, she wept for the life and humanity of her son. As a woman and a mother, we see Mary’s grace and strive to imitate her desire to do the will of God, unwavering in faith and holiness.
As true, confident, feminine examples of love and generosity, we need to know and understand Church teachings and desire to do more as laity in our Catholic faith. As individuals we are a part of the Body of Christ, with an important responsibility to love and with incredible opportunities at the end of our fingertips. Mulieris Dignitatem encourages us—women of faith—to deepen our own understanding about ourselves, and be a witness of faith. We must recognize that our vocation is to understand and teach the faith, to evangelize the world, to desire to grow ever more deeply in Christ’s love, to care for the poor and destitute, and even to answer the call to religious life. But, the most important of these things is to love unconditionally. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
In our faith today, we sometimes see people questioning where and how women should participate in our faith and its traditions. This is an issue that many on both sides of the spectrum feel strongly about. The New Evangelization is a way for all people who are members of the Body of Christ—especially women—to reconnect with God and to rekindle the desire to live our lives to their fullest potential.
Krissy Kirby is a Senior at The Catholic University of America and a Resident Minister through the Office of Campus Ministry.
“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent,
and the choices that you make will shape your life forever.”
-A Bronx Tale
I cannot count the times in my life where I have felt lesser in the spiritual sphere because someone “outshined” me. I often thought the Church was so boring, homogenous. I felt suppressed, and like I was being asked to be someone I just was not. Recently, I had a shaky experience with a church-affiliated organization, where I felt completely displaced, unheard and unappreciated. I even contemplated my course of study. Having just returned from 3 months abroad, away from everything familiar and with an abundance of solitude, this situation struck a raw nerve. Where am I going? What is God calling me to? And how much of what is being said and done is a reflection of my identity and place in the Church and how much is pure politics or misunderstanding?
Theology is my passion, and the Church is something I believe in firmly. I hope to one day build a career around bringing my skills and ideas to this institution. But I was doubting myself. I knew that all of this could not be a matter of my inadequacy in the eyes of God. So why did I feel like someone took a garden hose to the fire burning inside me? Luckily, it only took a sit-down with one of my most respected professors to kick-start me again. He reminded me of my skills, talents, and charisms, and that they differ from person to person; and mine are certainly no mistake.
These every day scenarios can chase some of the most passionate youth away from the areas they may be called to enhance or reform. The New Evangelization calls us to recognize the need for every type of person. It’s what makes us communal. How is evangelization, family life, or any other cosmopolitan activity possible with only one personality type allowed? It isn’t. Christifideles Laici speaks powerfully to this, clarifying that each and every forte and ability is valued:
“They are not called to abandon the position that they have in the world. Baptism does not take them from the world at all…He entrusts a vocation to them that properly concerns their situation in the world.”
For some reason, so many of us are scared that what God calls us to must be the most gruesome and displeasing situation. I find myself constantly asking God “PLEASE DO NOT CALL ME TO A, B, OR C!” the kicker; of course, being that God isn’t out to make my life miserable… I’m called to act in accordance with the talents and abilities I have.
So, if God calls us to use our skills and capacities to better and bring to order the world, what happens when institutions or governments begin to inhibit this? Pope Benedict stood before Parliament and defended our right as people of faith to keep our faith alive in our careers and all decisions following. As head of the Roman Catholic Church, one would assume that perhaps he wants to make sure "his own" are being heard, but it seems he contends that anyone with a well-formed conscience is inherently free and bound to follow it. We expect that our leaders will lead us toward good will and prosperity. Working toward any noble cause is not easy. However, if we allow God into our lives solely for our personal missions and hardships, why are we not surprised that we do not receive the same guidance and grace outside? We must seek it. And to seek it, there must be freedom, and even encouragement, to do so. What better time to let God back in? We may be pleasantly surprised by the Spirit’s ability to emerge through the cracks of brokenness, and allow us a deeper-rooted ethical cause.
 Himes, Michael J. Doing the Truth in Love: Conversations about God, Relationships, and Service. New York: Paulist, 1995. p. 47
Angela Chiappetta is the Program Development Associate for the Catholic Apostolate Center.