Better collaboration between women and men will strengthen the church

Promoting better collaboration between women and men in the Catholic Church is not primarily about equality.

It’s about allowing the church to fulfil the mission given to it by God, said women at an international conference on priesthood at the Vatican last week.

Organized by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the conference examined the theology of the priesthood and its relationship to consecrated life.

The speakers included Professor Michelina Tenace, Sister Alessandra Smerilli  and Martha Olavarrieta de Gómez Serrano.

“The church needs women and must call them to serve for the good of all people” said Tenace (pictured).

She spoke of the 2016 Study Commission on the Women’s Diaconate of which she is a member.

Women deacons’ disappearance in the Latin-rite church didn’t mean women no longer had a place – their holiness continued to be recognised and their service utilised.

“As all the baptised are called to serve humanity, today the issue’s not about restoring the past, but discovering what ministry do the people of God need.

“Ministries for women are urgently needed to recognise the true identity of the church” Tenace said.

“Our duty to serve the church must constantly. Ask: ‘How can we better serve humanity seeking salvation and in the way most in compliance with the mandate of the Lord'”.

Smerilli said the ministry should be examined from the ‘logic of communion’ as part of the covenant between God and human beings, rather than a perspective of ‘claiming’ rights or powers.

Genesis describes the covenant as beginning with God entrusting creation’s care to a man and a woman — a responsibility that remains today.

The church, its mission and women suffer when women’s gifts and call to service are underutilised, she said.

“We need to reflect both the male and female aspects of God, and to work together in reciprocity and dialogue, in communion and fruitfulness in every area of human experience.

“Women are a rightful part of this advancement toward the truth inspired by the Holy Spirit”, she said. Women in the church and ‘female charisms’ have achieved ‘extraordinary things’ in the past.

“The church is called to seek alliances between men and women, despite any resistance to change”, she said.

“Constructive, unifying and mission-oriented collaboration among men and women, both religious and lay, and of multiple generations, already happens in many places, parishes or associations” Smerilli said.

Olavarrieta, a mother of nine, was active in family ministry in Mexico City and helped organise the World Meeting of Families there in 2009. She spoke of ways families cultivate the faith among their members and reach out to evangelise and serve the larger community.

It is a vocation of saying ‘yes’ to the gifts and graces of life and marriage and journeying together with priests.

“Women have always walked alongside Jesus, reaching out to him as mothers, sisters, daughters, and this is how he addressed them,” Smerilli said. Priests today still need a variety of women to carry out Christ’s mission.


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