Contributing to a transfigured world
February 21, 2024
The Blue Economy
February 21, 2024

Women can be agents of positive change

By Leela Ramdeen

Consultant, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

 

The following is an extract from CCSJ’s Consultant, Leela Ramdeen’s presentation as the feature speaker at the Growing in Grace Women’s Ministry’s Annual Women’s Conference 2023, November 26, on the theme: Embracing our Dignity, Vocation, and Mission in the World Today. The entire presentation can be viewed via the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuhTSOwJgg8

 

Two women, the Mexican Sister María de los Dolores Palencia Gómez, Superior General of the Congregation of St Joseph of Lyon and the Japanese Momoko Nishimura, from the Missionary Community of the Servants of the Gospel of the Mercy of God, were among the nine president delegates, that is, those who led the Synod Assembly when the Pope was not present.

Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported, Sr Gómez, “described the experience of sitting with Pope Francis at the head table as ‘a gift and a grace’ — and a sign of things to come in the Catholic Church. She described the participation of women in the ongoing Synod of Synodality as ‘setting the stage for future changes. I feel that this is a gradual process. Little by little, we shall see changes’.”

Her presiding role came as the Synod Assembly began its work on the topic of “co-responsibility in mission.” Section B 2 of the working document, Instrumentum Laboris (IL), asks a pertinent question: how can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel? This is the challenge for each diocese. Note that IL was written by a team of 15 people, including women.

In our Archdiocese, Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon clearly demonstrates his commitment to including women in senior positions.

Globally, in Church and society, women contribute to every field of endeavour. Women can be and are agents of positive change/agents of hope in our troubled world—in their families, communities, workplaces, in politics, and in the wider society.

Catholic women in our Archdiocese and around the world are involved in teaching the faith, pastoral work, education, in social, cultural, and economic spheres.

In spite of this, too often women’s potential, talents and contributions are not acknowledged. There continues to be a call for women’s activities/contributions to Church and society to be given more visibility.

If women are to have a meaningful role in our Church, there needs to be “integral formation, initial and ongoing, for all members of the People of God” (IL p21; A 1, p10 outlines the characteristic signs of a synodal Church).

“One of the questions under consideration during this stage of the synod is the possibility of admitting women to the diaconate. Affirming past Church teaching, Pope Francis has repeatedly stated that the Church does not have the capacity to sacramentally ordain women.

“At the same time, the pope has broken from precedent to give women governing roles in the Church, including in the Vatican. Gomez described the involvement of women in the synod as a new ‘modus vivendi’ for the Church, ‘a way of life for forever, journeying together with a permanent and ongoing dialogue’” (CNA).

During the Synod, the issue of clericalism was discussed. This can be an obstacle to women, and indeed, men, taking their rightful place in our Church. Delegates called for theological and pastoral research to continue about allowing women to be deacons, and called for the results of the two study groups Pope Francis has commissioned to be released before the second session of the synod opens in October 2024.

Pope Francis said on October 28 that it was “urgent” to guarantee fuller participation of women in Church governance positions and called for research on allowing women to be deacons to be released within a year.

I urge you to read the 42-page Synthesis Report of the first sitting of Synod entitled: A Synodal Church In Mission, which tells us that ‘synodal’ and ‘synodality’ are terms that “speak of a mode of being Church that integrates communion, mission, and participation”.

So, they indicate a way of living the Church, valuing differences, and developing the active involvement of all.

As we move forward, let us remember the words of Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Relator General of the Synod on Synodality. He introduced Module B2 of the IL, entitled ‘Co-Responsibility in Mission’ at the Synod. Inter alia, he said: “Most of us are men. But men and women receive the same baptism and the same Spirit. The baptism of women is not inferior to the baptism of men.

How can we ensure that women feel they are an integral part of this missionary Church? Do we, the men, perceive the diversity and the richness of the charisms the Holy Spirit has given to women? Or that the way we act often depends on our past education, our family upbringing and experience, or the prejudices and stereotypes of our culture?

Do we feel enriched or threatened when we share our common mission and when women are co-responsible in the mission of the Church, on the basis of the grace of our common Baptism?”

In conclusion, I pay tribute to each of you and remind you that each of us women is a Woman of Grace, a woman with unique God-given gifts. Let us continue to play our part in building the Civilisation of Love.

This is a spiritual process, which requires us, as missionary disciples, to deepen our spirituality; to open our hearts to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us; to transform us.

May we all go forth, celebrating the God-given gift of our womanhood, inspired by the Holy Spirit, with Our Lady by our side, to use our feminine genius to be change agents, agents of hope in our troubled country and world.