Thursday, October 13, 2011

Women and the Church

Just some passing thoughts . . .

In early summer, many of my Catholic blogging friends post ordination pictures.  I am always disconcerted, and then stung, and then saddened, because the participants in the photos are always 100% male.

I'm been working on my ordination service very intently for the past couple of weeks ~ especially for the past few days, ever since we knew that October 30 would be a "go."

The pastor participants in the service are: two men, five women.

The elders (Presby-speak for elected church leaders) are one man, three women.

The readers are all women: one Jewish, one Catholic, one Protestant.

The preachers are all Presby: two men, one woman.

One evening several years ago, really bored at a Session (church council) meeting, I pulled some old books of Session minutes off the library shelves to peruse.  "Look at this!" I suddenly exclaimed.  In the 1950s, all of our elders and pastors were male.  The photos and lists of names - all men.  

And in the end, it took the Holy Spirit only 50 years, once we got on board.


  1. quite a crew you have gathered to be part of the celebration. Enjoy the moment

  2. Quite the perceptive observation! As a member (sort of, now... well, not really) of the Catholic Church I can say through my own experience that there is a genuine need for a woman's influence. Perhaps if there had been when Erin was sick, a person of compassion would have come to visit (per your previous post - time spent visiting hospitals, assisted living, rehab, and hospice). Instead, we were ignored... for three years. How I would have welcomed you. How desperately I needed you!!!

    And now, "I am woman, hear me roar" - tell your friend to GROW UP! I recently had a similar encounter and let some of it loose in my recent post.

  3. No one came in three years?????

    I realize Catholic parishes are stressed in terms of numbers of priests, but no other ministerial staff involved in pastoral care visits?

    I remember my father's anger when my last stepmother died. He is not religious at all, but she was. When her pastor finally called, three months into her illness (stage 4 lung cancer, mets to the brain at diagnosis), she was far too ill for company. My dad said that it would have meant so much to her a month earlier.

  4. I'd been an employee of the school/parish for ten years when Erin was diagnosed. I am a graduate of the school. My mother taught at the school many years ago. My father had been an usher and a member of the Holy Name Society. Our four children attended and graduated from the school.

    This pastor had taken the helm in July and Erin was diagnosed in December, so he'd only been there a short time. He met me several times through my full-time position in the main office of the school. He had not met Erin. The associate pastor knew all of our children because he'd been there for several years.

    The pastor and associate pastor showed up at the hospital unexpectedly while Erin was in for a chemo treatment. (Her first protocol required admission to the hospital during each session.) This was four months after her diagnosis. It was the only time the pastor saw her in those three years. There were no blessings or prayers said in the room. The associate showed up at the hospital one other time. It was after his vacation in Florida and we heard all about his days on the beach. No blessing. No prayer.

    Oh yeah, and I live four blocks from the school/church.
    Yes, I'm disgusted and yes, I need a new church.

  5. I am disgusted, horrified, and heartbroken on behalf of you, Erin, and your entire family.

    I understand that parish pastors cannot be everywhere simultaneously, and that there are many crises over a period of years. But this is beyond appalling.

    A child fighting for her life and her parents go straight to the top of any list for regular pastoral care.

    Did you have good hospital chaplains? Were there eucharistic ministers to bring her (and you) communion?

  6. We had no one. I can only assume that they - whoever the all inclusive they were - were waiting for us to ask for help. We were drowning and needed someone to take the initiative and throw a lifeline.

  7. This conversation is just heartbreaking to read. While I know that individual priests and parishes have different talents and skills, still there must be something wrong with the seminary that produces such priests as those in your parish, Mary. It is only because of the contemplative and mystical tradition in the Catholic Church that I can remain. There's a great rift in the church between its saints and its hierarchy. Our parish has a large group of outreach ministers -- but it's an awakening to see that all of them are over 60 years old. They are in their wisdom years, and they know where,to whom, when, and how to bring compassion to those who are suffering.

    Still -- I wonder how long the real Christian Catholics: the contemplatives, the healers, the givers of hope, the consolers,the bringers of joy, the guides through the passage with "our sister, bodily death," will be able to remain yoked to the institutional church.

    I just returned from a pilgrimage to Italy. Assisi moved me to the core. Rome left me cold. So there's the paradox for the Catholic.

  8. This is awful, Mary. Awful. I am so sorry. Robin, thank you for opening this discussion and ministering here.

    We had a wonderful chaplain in the hospital (there was more than one, but I had a favorite, and she was present when needed). Our assistant pastor (Presbyterian) came to the hospital, my spiritual director visited - and we were in hospital in a city an hour away from our church. The head pastor was new - interim - and not part of our support system.

    Mary, I hope that you will find a church home, and that the hurt in your heart over this awful neglect will be lovingly tended and eventually, healed.

  9. Mary - my husband is currently in formation for the Permanent Diaconate. As part of that he was assigned as year to participate in the Ministry to the Sick. A hugely rewarding experience for him, and it continues to lead him in his discernment.

    That said, I can totally concur with your experience and say that I"m horrified by the lack of participation and involvement by Pastors and Church officials. All we hear around here (Tallahassee, FL) is HIPPA, HIPPA, HIPPA and patient privacy. But honestly there are people in the parish who KNOW one another, and can make a call!

    There have been numerous times I have made that call to our pastor. Yes, he is one priest. And we have two Deacons. Yes, they're busy. So what? They are the only ones allowed to be Priests and Deacons so the duties fall to them. Delegate more administrative things, and spend your time in the hospitals, hospice and homes of those suffering.

    My husband and I have this conversation all the time. Yes, there needs to be women involved. And if we can't be ordained, then we can facilitate the connections that must be made.

    I'm so sorry for your loss. And for your experience of abandonment. I can only hope that wherever you live there is a compassionate, kind and devout Priest who can help heal the pain caused by the Church's lack of care.

    We'll certainly keep you in our prayers.