08 Girl Child to Woman Leader in the Church! - Fr Anthony J Fernandes

posted Mar 1, 2018, 7:27 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 1, 2018, 7:28 PM ]
In the history of the Catholic Church, laywomen and women in religious institutes have played a variety of roles, and the Church has influenced societal attitudes to women throughout the world in significant ways. Prominent women in the life of the Church have ranged from Old Testament figures to the Virgin Mary and female disciples of Jesus, to theologians, abbesses, monarchs, missionaries, mystics, martyrs, scientists, nurses, hospital administrators, educationists and religious sisters. The Gospels suggest Jesus Himself broke with convention to provide religious instruction directly to women.

The Catholic Church produced many of the world's great women scientists and scholars - including the physicians Trotula of Salerno (11th century) and Dorotea Bucca (d. 1436), the philosopher Elena Piscopia (d. 1684) and the mathematician Maria Agnesi (d. 1799). Four women are honoured as Doctors of the Church: German mystic Hildegard of Bingen, Spanish mystic Teresa of Ávila, Italian mystic Catherine of Siena and the French nun Thérèse de Lisieux.

Other Catholic women have risen to international prominence through charitable mission works and social justice campaigns—as with hospital pioneer St Marianne Cope, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa, or anti-death penalty campaigner Sr Helen Prejean.

In our Youth exchange programme to Germany in 2012 to the Diocese of Limburg, we witnessed how women were actively involved in the pastoral ministry, in the absence of priests. They were literally running the parish, while the priest would come on Sundays to celebrate the Eucharist. We are witnessing the active role of women in the Church in India, especially in our Archdiocese, where women are a huge majority, when it comes to grassroots workers.

Women today are also filling the ranks of the Roman Curia on a historically unprecedented level. "I think we are at a point of seeing (a different model)… a springtime for new forms of leadership… in the Church," said Cardinal Peter Turkson, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, while speaking to participants of an April 14, 2015 conference held at Rome's Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas. He referenced numerous changes being made in the ongoing reform of the Church and the Roman Curia, noting that the process has led to the opening of new doors for both women and laypersons to take up roles of leadership that had never before been open to them. The cardinal pointed out several recent examples of women serving in positions that until now were filled by men.

In 2012, Flaminia Giovanelli was appointed as the undersecretary for his Council, the cardinal recalled, making her the highest ranking laywoman in the Roman Curia, and the first laywoman to hold the position of undersecretary.