Rome Reflections Day 4

At noon today, several of us from the CNWE contingent were on the rooftop terrace of our residence, while bells rang across the cityscape  beneath us.

And it felt like I was hovering over Rome, carried aloft on a current of breathtaking change.

Historically that’s often how it happens.

When I was teaching liturgy, I used to refer to the year 1967 as a turning point full of irony.  In 1967, Lutherans worldwide were marking the 450th anniversary of the Reformation.  At the same time, Roman Catholics worldwide were trying to make sense of the liturgical changes that were being implemented, sometimes too quickly and sometimes only in fits and starts, at the parish level, often by priests who had no idea how to explain what was happening, except to say “This is the new rule now and we have to do what the Church says.”

The fact was, Martin Luther had already anticipated most of these changes 450 years before — the presider facing the people, the Eucharist celebrated in the peoples’ own language, scripture readings in their own language followed by scripturally-based preaching (no longer what one liturgist called “moralistic diatribes or devotional ferverinos.”)   Everyone giving the greeting of peace, everyone taking part in the opening rites, more and (mostly) better music, and, oh gosh, not to forget widespread communion under both species, bread *and* wine.

So logical.  And it only took us 450 years to get there.

These graced and powerful days in Rome, the grace of the dialogue processes carried out in the context of the Synod, the winds of change and the fresh air of hope, should not be underestimated.

Indeed it. is. good. to. be. here.

Susan Roll

Rome Reflections Day 3

October 3, 2023, Roma.

Our spot in Rome is extraordinary. While the rooms are simple but spacious and lovely, we have an exquisite view from our rooftop terrace. We all gathered together last night for the first time to share a simple meal of bread, wine, olives, cheese and grapes. Breaking bread with CNWE is such a special time.

Several of us visited the Catacombs of Priscilla: Jeanie, Nancy, Louise, Susan, Roberta and myself. We walked 700 metres along dark narrow pathways into the period of the 3rd century. For me there was a sense of going back in time to a period that was so rich for the Christian community. From my readings/ understanding of history Priscilla was prominent in the church. Many suggest that she was a priest. The image of her in the mosaic clearly resembles someone praying, presiding over a ritual. She is acknowledged to be a wealthy woman who donated land for the catacombs. Similarly to tombs through time there’s a great range of very simple tombs to very elaborate.

First Nativity

Dating from the early 3rd century is the first known image of the Nativity. The image showing a character from the Old Testament confirms the messianic idea of the prophesy, of the universal annunciation.

At St. Praxedes

We walked back to our residence via the beautiful Villa Borghese gardens, stopping for wonderful drinks. At 4 pm, wearing our purple stoles, we all gathered at St. Praxedes for our ritual with WOW/WOC. We had an opportunity in this beautiful church to see the famous mosaic of Theodora. I was lucky to be accompanied by Susan Roll at that moment. She explained that the square surrounding Theodora meant she was still alive at the time of the creation of the mosaic. Though the last part of her name is not clear, her title is! Episcopa – the “a” indicates a woman and a bishop.


Following we mingled and celebrated on the beautiful rooftop terrace of Mecenate Palace Hotel. I spoke with journalist /writer Michael Higgins and activists from Italy, France, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, India as well as United States. 

Louise with spectacular view

The photo is of Louise Dowhan with the spectacular view behind her.

Some of the words of the service resonate still. Barb (WOC) asked, “Who can bless? Who can be blessed?” Inspired by a prayer:

“May we in CNWE use our power of wisdom, anger, humour, heartbreak and hope to comfort (and confront) this world, to create a kindom: a radically loving inclusion.”

To bless and be blessed. May it be so!

Mary-Ellen Morgenstern

Rome Reflections Day 2 – CNWE members at Synod

Sunset view from the rooftop of where we are staying

October 2.

We have arrived in Rome on the eve of the synod. Our Canadian CNWE contingent is here and the mood amongst our group is hopeful and determined. We are struck by the resolve of these women and men who love their faith but have been hurt by their Church. That echoes for us too. It’s not anger that brings us all here but rather determination that things can be different and that we can be part of the change. For if not us, then who?

We are inspired by the words of Pope Francis at the ceremony for the creation of the new Cardinals in which he said:

“Diversity is necessary; it is indispensable. However, each sound must contribute to the common design,” Continuing with the metaphor of an orchestra he continued “This is why mutual listening is essential: each musician must listen to the others.”

Banners we will wear on our shirts for some events

So on this eve of the opening of the synods we are hopeful that all voices will be heard and considered. We have various events planned over the next several days in collaboration with other reform minded groups from around the world.  We will stand in solidarity, shoulder to shoulder, with these groups. We look ahead with gratitude to all the woman who gone before us working for justice and we look behind at those who have our backs. We hold the prayers and good wishes and hopes of our supporters close. You could say it’s our song book.

As we walked the streets of Rome tonight in the glory of the architecture and history which surrounds us, we think about the historic nature of this synod. And we are so grateful to be here, in this moment, in this place, sharing it with you and raising our voices for reform!

Jeanie and Nancy

Jeanie McKibbon and Nancy Quan are friends from Calgary with a shared passion for good food, good wine, good community and knitting.

Rome Reflections Day 1 – CNWE members at Synod

Wisdom Sophia

October 1. As we come off of a 10 day relaxing but adventure filled tour of southern Italy along the Adriatic Sea, we begin to turn our thoughts and our intentions toward our week in Rome. Our faithful car we dubbed Rosa (because of all the rose we consumed on our tour) returned and we board our train into Rome with some trepidation but mostly excitement and anticipation. We eagerly look forward to the friendships we will deepen within our own group and new friends from around the world who have come to be counted. We anticipate standing shoulder to shoulder with the many reform groups “we are here-see and hear us.”

We come with a stance of joyful hopefulness and an expectation of good things. Tomorrow our Canadian contingent (9 of us) will gather in Rome after months of planning. We are extending an invitation of hospitality to the Canadian Synodal delegates to share a meal and dialogue, hopefully later in the week. A chance to listen and be heard over pizza!

The CNWE group will be providing daily posts on our activities in Rome from those with feet on the ground. We come with the prayers and hopes and dreams from our communities and beyond. We are so grateful. Andiamo.

Jeanie and Nancy

Jeanie McKibbon and Nancy Quan are friends from Calgary with a shared passion for good food, good wine, good community and knitting.