The Church is in a listening mode! So, each week, I would like us to use this space for Catholic women’s voices to be heard! We have often heard the cries that the Church has no safe space for professional Catholic women. It is often felt that women who do not fall in the category of youth or elderly do not feel like they have a voice or a place in the Catholic Church. We decided to reach out to some women in the 35 to 45 age group to get their feedback, asking them ‘Have you ever had a serious life-changing situation? Would you turn to someone in the Catholic Church or outside of the Church and please tell us why?’
Willow – St Paul’s RC Church
Girl that statement is soooo true! Middle-aged and mature women in the Catholic Church have little or no safe space apart from the interpersonal ‘friendships’ individually developed within the context of Church attendance or activities. From my experience, in parish life, these so-called friendships are only weekend affairs for the exchange of pleasantries or information exchange/gossip about oneself or others, but often stops short of extending or rendering support and camaraderie in daily life outside of the Church or is limited in its scope and effect. Even in times of adversity. A “church friend” is occasional, contextual, exclusive, cliquish, unreliable, and often transient. Barely useful for crisis situations.
Worse still, they often become the source of contention and bacchanal and associated hurt and withdrawal. The struggle with genuine friendship with and among women in the Church is real!
As a result, in all the crisis moments in my life, I have found that people outside my parish community have been more willing to rally to my aid or offer support. This is both a give and take phenomenon. For the negative reasons expressed above, women develop trust issues and are hesitant to entrust fellow parishioners with the sensitive aspects of their life. Why seek help when in the past, none has been forthcoming from those quarters or has been insufficient? They also don’t want to burden others with their struggle because everybody in their age group has problems and they don’t want
to come across less than Christian, spiritually confident in faith. Or are reluctant to reach out in honest vulnerability, or are simply hurt, embarrassed or seek to uphold their image and pride.
You know they say they just carry their burdens alone because that’s what adulthood is about, and it is what it is accustomed to. The ability to manage one’s own affairs. So, asking for assistance or support often feels like weakness and failure.
So yes, we have a voice, but it’s often suffocated or stifled. We need more safe spaces for the age group. Outside, within and between parish communities. Oh, and the needs of the single with no children, single with children or elderly, married, married with children or elderly are all different. Within recent times, the ‘Young Adult Ministry’ group has tried to bridge that gap, by embracing even those who fall outside the age range for the category. When I was within the age range, it didn’t exist. It is a useful place to share information, commiserate and socialise in a limited way. But I don’t know if I would feel comfortable with relying on their support in difficult times.
Oh, also, women in this age group are also reluctant to reach out because of the role model and idealised perceptions of younger parishioners who often seek support from them.
I think the Catholic Church has lost the synergy of cross-parish women’s groups like Ladies Auxiliary or Marian devotion groups. They are unable to make themselves attractive for organisational recruitment purposes and women are less enthusiastic to participate. I don’t even know what these folks do.
Jewel – St Philip and St James RC Church
Thank you for the question. Such a true and pertinent statement/topic. I believe in the Church’s ability to improve this dilemma. Given the Roman Catholic foundation that my parents have laid for my siblings and I, we have attempted to keep in tune with our spirituality through our involvement in Bible study, Centring prayer and rosary prayer group, and Maranatha meditation group via Zoom during this pandemic.
We have attended Mass, charismatic conferences and Catholic teachers conventions via Facebook and YouTube. It is a demanding virtual world.
In terms of tackling my life-changing issues, my main advisers, my parents, have died. However, I have contacted members of the Church, colleagues, and family, then made decisions based on their words of advice. This is because their years of experience will lend for sound words of wisdom.
There are times when we lapse in attendance. There is always a member of a prayer group who contacts us to check in on us.
The Church can include mentorship, so that persons who do not fall in the bracket of youth or elderly can be attached to a group leader who will serve as their mentor. More women’s groups are needed to complement the men’s groups.
Marisha – Gasparillo RC Church
I would have turned to the folks in the Catholic Church for help before. I do not recall a life-changing situation per say but I would have sought help or guidance or prayers for friends and myself at the Mt St Benedict, Eternal Life Community and another prayer group some years ago.
I remember seeing folks from other faiths visiting Mt St Benedict seeking assistance so there is something special about our faith and prayers etc.
I remember visiting a prayer group some years ago and getting excellent guidance. We clearly need more folks involved in ministry and those who have the discerning gift as well as the gifts of healing and wisdom.
In 1997, I was in a crisis with my mother coming down with cancer. The closest doctor I knew who could explain was my parish priest. He then walked the journey.
Marianne – St Joseph RC Church
I have very good friends that I am able to turn to in serious situations, both inside and outside of the Catholic Church. Availability is one of the main reasons I choose someone.
Can you relate to any of these responses? Please join the conversation on our social media pages and let us get your honest feedback on the topic.