Enlarge the Space of Your Tent: Women’s Ordination Advocates at the Opening of Synod 2023

Here is a two minute video, sent out by the U.S. based Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC).  The  “Women’s Walk” they organized (WOC’s Walk as it were!) was one of their actions in which the “CNWE Nine” participated. 

To get a sense of the Women’s Walk on the ground, please enjoy this gorgeous video from that October 4th witness calling the Synod to “Enlarge the space of their tent,” to include the voices and vocations of people of all genders to renewed ordained ministry.

Rome Reflections Day 6

Rev. Roberta Fuller

Rome, the eternal city:

We, CNWE, came for the WOC Vigil for gender equity & we went to the Women’s March for Women’s Rights, – for human rights in our own Roman Catholic Church, yet all this time, we have been in the midst of Rome, the eternal city.

Under the umbrella pines spreading sacred shade & beside the blossoming oleander everywhere, we breathed in the sunshine-filled air of Rome.

CNWE folks were fortunate to stay at the Resurrection Father’s monastery almost atop the Spanish Steps, ten minutes from the Trevi Fountain where, of course, we threw coins in the in the water to be granted traditional wishes.

We passed the vast Basilica of Maria Maggiore, full of magnificent mosaics, stopped at the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, beside the holy steps, then passed infamous Colosseum of gladiator contests to reach the Circus Maximus, site of ancient chariot races. 

History, both glorious & gory surrounded us but beneath the towering palms & between the elegant boutiques & luxurious shops, we found time & space to explore the Catacombs of Priscilla, an early woman priest.

We journeyed to the Basilica of St. Praxedes with Women’s Ordination Conference gathering to pray together for women’s full participation in all ministries imminently.

As CNWE people, we gazed in awe & wonder at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, & so we prayed that justice, equality & inclusion evolve from the ongoing Synod.

Another highlight during our visit on October 4th, the Feast Day of St. Francis, was the release of Pope Francis’ Laudato Deum – the sequel to his definitive encyclical on the climate crisis, Laudato Si’.

Perhaps the true highlight of our focused trip to Rome was the Women’s March through the city on October 6th to not only advertise our mission but also to promote our hope for fair & equal recognition in our own Roman Catholic Church.

We continue to strive in faith for our vision of equal acceptance of unity for all men & women alike to forge a better world together.

Eternal Rome: Eternal hope.

Rev. Roberta Fuller

Rome Reflections Day 5.5

Virginia Lafond

When I quickly wrote my ‘Roman Elizabeth Story’ on Saturday morning, I very well knew it needed editing. I did edit it as best I could in the 45 minutes that I had at the airport, before I boarded my flight; however, even with Veronica Dunne’s excellent editing together with her input of valuable facts, I need to tell you:

  • Sister Elizabeth Mary’s family/last name is Davis – not Davies as I mistakenly understood it to be when I first wrote;

  • Elizabeth, you’ll remember, listed for us a number of aspects of the almost eight decades of her life – in teaching, healthcare, and religious life – that she believes that these aspects, once ‘summed up’, persuaded Pope Francis to appoint her as a voting delegate in the Synod of Synodalities.

To my chagrin, I realized 2 or 3 days ago that I didn’t tell you about one of these facts when I first wrote about our Zoom encounter with her last Thursday (October 5), Therefore, I’d like to tell you that story now.

In 1985 Elizabeth was taking a course given by none other than (the well-known feminist theologian) Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza at Notre Dame University, Indiana. When the final exam came out she saw that there were but two questions which, in her view, were simplistic (my word). and she at first decided she would not even try to address either of them. However, a friend kept nudging her, reminding her that there would be some grief if, in not answering one of the two questions, she failed the course. Fast forward, she caved and submitted a response to Fiorenza. When Fiorenza phoned her shortly after, Elizabeth first thought she had failed the course. Instead, Fiorenza explained that she was writing a book, and then she proposed to include Elizabeth’s exam submission in a section of her book.1

Friends, that book is the outstanding classic entitled In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins. (Crossroad. New York. 1992). “Yes, I do have a contribution in that book,” Elizabeth declared to us. Actually, I myself have kept a copy of it on my shelf for at least two decades – and, thanks to this fabulous encounter with Elizabeth Mary Davis, I plan to soon read the whole book again, this time with a deep hopeful lens.

I’m pausing now to remind myself again of a welcome fact: Both Catherine Clifford (an “official” Canadian delegate with whom we also met) and Elizabeth Mary Davis are progressive/constructive-thinkers, loving, and well-educated women who think outside the box. (Contrast them to many other women who have been up till now appointed to Vatican committees.)

Before leaving you, I thought I’d explain one more time, for what it’s worth, why I decided to come to Rome with my eight companions. Here goes:

Anyone who comes to know me has probably heard me identify myself as the most Protestant (read ‘protesting’) Roman Catholic on the face of Mother Earth. Why have I stayed with the Church with a vision of somehow contributing to its badly needed reform? I believe my answer, in great part, is related to my professional social work lens: I see the Roman Catholic Church as powerful beyond measure, influencing countless numbers of its baptized members, other individuals and organizations outside the church, including great and small organizations (think of its membership in the United Nations) – and, though many members validly claim gains from the church’s influence, others don’t have a positive experience.

I’m sad to say what is obvious, ie, great numbers of people have had and are experiencing terrible abuse, including physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. Some of those abused are children. But, I want to mention here that, through my work as a social worker/therapist, I have worked with adults who have been abused in one way or another by Roman Catholic clergy. Victims can end up feeling that they in some way are responsible for the abusive behaviour. I’m wanting to emphasize here that the outcome of abuse to the victim can take decades to come to the person’s consciousness, and when it does, the work of regaining the health of mind, soul and body can be, and most often is, one huge task.

As well, years ago I learned from Sister Veronica Dunne, RNDM, (CNWE Conference, 2001) that any group which holds ‘power over’ others always makes for suffering for/in those others. Thus, I perceive that those who hold second-class citizenship in the church, viz., all the women and all the non-clerical men are vulnerable to feelings which range from annoyance to absolute (break-me-down-and-out) frustration. Many leave, criticize, remain angry, move to other religious bodies, go nowhere near ‘organized religion’ ….

Finally, to conclude, I think the church as it is operating is ‘a wreck’. Yes, a wreck. I regret having to say this but I will not take my words back. When I see the Church’s rules and regulations (Canon Law) excluding people from sacraments for various reasons (e.g., marriage breakdown, living with out-of-wedlock partners, living in same-sex unions, ….), I am not only sorrowful but appalled because Jesus the Christ, our centre, taught, lived, and modelled LOVE towards the other, no matter who they were or what they’d done. The Roman Catholic Church absolutely needs to work toward reforming itself to be truly inclusive including expressing love as Jesus did.

I am a practicing Roman Catholic, and have been all my life. I have the wherewithal to speak ‘truth to power’. I came to Rome to do just that. And, I’m not shy to say, that I, along with my fellows in our group of nine did that! Hallelujah!

Enuf! for sure. Thanks so much for reading this. Blessings on us all!

Virginia Lafond

… a member of CNWE (Catholic Network for Women’s Equality) and RCWP (Roman Catholic Women Priests)

1 In Chapter 2, entitled ‘Toward a Feminist Critical Method’ (pp. 40 – 67), one finds Davis’ response to one of two exam questions. Fiorenza introduces it: “…I have found it helpful to encourage students to write stories or letters from the perspective of leading women in early Christianity. … The following ‘apocryphal’ letter of the apostle Phoebe written by one of my students54 can highlight the educational and imaginative value of retelling and rewriting biblical androcentric text from a feminist critical perspective. #54 is the last note at the end of Chapter 2. It is followed by: “Sr. Elizabeth Davis, paper written for a course on ‘Women in Early Christianity,’ given at the University of Notre Dame, Summer 1978.” The ‘apocryphal’ letter begins on p.61 and ends on p. 64 mid-page.

Calgary woman joins Vatican march calling for ordination of women to the priesthood | Global News

From Global News, read the full article featuring CNWE member Jeanie McKibbon:

Calgary woman joins Vatican march calling for ordination of women to the priesthood

CNWE and WOW Praying Together

Photo courtesy of the Women's Ordination Conference: https://www.womensordination.org/

Yesterday, October 3, CNWE’s delegation to Rome and other supporters of women’s ordination from around the world were welcomed into the historic Basilica of St. Praxedes in Rome, for a vigil to pray for women’s voices to carry throughout the synod process. 

The WOC notice says:

“Steps away from the mosaic of Theodora epsicopa, we prayed together for courage, for persistence, and for the church to recognize the valid calls of women and people of all genders to ordained ministry. The Spirit-filled gathering marked our entrance into this time of synod as hopeful people, willing partners in dialogue, believing that the Holy Spirit can enlarge the tent to include our voices.”

Watch the full video of the prayer service on the WOC YouTube channel: 

Let Her Voice Carry: Women’s Ordination Worldwide Prayer Vigil