Justice For Women

In the Church. In the World.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Report from Conversation and Celebration of Women Called

sorry it took so long. :) a version of this article will appear in the march 2006 issue of Together, a publication of the Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet, St Paul Province. for more on the event, visit WOC's website

On February 18, 2006, I had the great pleasure of traveling to Santa Barbara, CA for Conversation and Celebration of Women Called, co-sponsored by Women’s Ordination Conference and the Los Angeles Province. The event brought over one hundred women (and a few men) from all over California and the United States.
Our day together opened with a ritual which asked, “Who is invited to the table?” While St. Paul writes in Galatians, “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus,” there are many in our communities who are not invited to the table by institutional church. Some of those represented in our ritual include gays and lesbians, women called to ordination, priests who have married, and those who are poor and isolated from a parish community. The ritual was followed by a small group discussion asking the questions: Who is not invited to the table in our communities? What tensions exist in our local worship communities?
Our first keynote speaker of the day was Nicole Sotelo, writer and director of Call to Action’s Next Generation. Nicole spoke about the history of ordination, our current understandings of what “ordination” means, and five action steps for the movement for church reform. Some of Nicole’s historical revelations included the fact that as late as 1000 CE, women deacons were common and accepted, based on a letter from Pope Benedict VIII affirming their role. Nicole also spoke about some new understandings of ordination from various theologians, including the idea that ministers should be called by their communities and that a charism or ministry may not be a lifelong call. Finally, Nicole gave the group some concrete action steps that she feels the movement for women's ordination and church reform must take, including envisioning ourselves as part of a larger global movement for justice, to recruit young people, and to take anti-oppression action within our movement.
Our second keynote speaker was Rev. Victoria Rue, an ordained womanpriest who was ordained on the St Lawrence Seaway in July of 2005. She spoke about her call to ordination and her work as a professor of religious studies and women's studies at San Jose State University. She spoke of her call by a community to serve as a minister, the positive response of her college community to her ordination, her thoughts on true communion and experiencing the body of Christ, and the role of women who seek ordination. Womanpriests, since they cannot have parishes within the structured Church as their male counterparts do, she said, are called to the worker priest tradition of the early twentieth century, laboring with the communities they serve. My favorite part of Victoria's keynote was her discussion of “living in the margins.” Those of us who work for justice for women and GLBT in the Roman Catholic Church are forced to live and work on the margins. But, as Victoria put it, “I like it out here on the margins. There’s more room. More possibility. And there are a whole lot of us out here on the margins!” It was a nice reminder that we are not alone in the struggle for justice.
One of the highlights of the day for me was the breakout session, when I was able to gather with other young women who are part of WOC's Young Feminist Network. There were about a dozen young women who participated in the conference. Many young women echoed the sentiment that they wished they had known about WOC and other church reform groups sooner, and that they finally felt that there were other people “like them” in the Catholic Church. We came up with some action steps to stay connected and to advocate for women's ordination. Aisha Taylor, the executive director of WOC, also revealed that the theme for this year's World Day of Prayer for Women's Ordination, March 26, would be “Good Catholic Girls Stand Up for Women's Ordination.”
Our day together ended with a liturgy conducted by Victoria and a small group of ordained womandeacons. For me, this was one of the most stunning and moving parts of the day. Watching a woman, in full priestly garb, lead us in worship and celebrate the Eucharist nearly brought me to tears. It was truly a vision of what our church should look like. Singing, praying, and breaking bread with this committed group of feminist women gave me a sense of hope and renewed my commitment to helping create a more just church.
My day concluded with dinner with members of the WOC board (quite accidentally through a new friend) and a quick trip to the Pacific Ocean, which was one of my life-long dreams! This trip was an incredible experience for me to meet new people and network with other Catholic feminist women. It was a memorable and moving weekend, and I feel truly blessed to have been a part of it.


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