CNWE members in Canada participated in the Synod in Rome, through prayer, intention and action. Members were encouraged to take a photo of themselves in solidarity, and Sr. Giang Pham put those photos and reflections together, into this 7 minute video on YouTube:
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
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!
… 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.
October 7, 2023
Early Morning Greetings! This before I leave this residence for the airport to catch the first of my 3 flights home.
Glory be! I find I have an hour to fill you in on the extraordinary 1 and 1/2 hour session that most of the CNWE group in Rome were enriched by on Thursday afternoon (Oct 5). In short, it was an encounter via Zoom with Sister Elizabeth Davies, one of the Canadians appointed by Pope Francis to be a delegate during the Synod process. To be true, I had never before heard of this Newfoundland Labradorian woman. Others quickly told me they hadn’t either but, by now, you and some of us have caught up because of her recent interview interview with Anthony Germain (I haven’t had the time to listen to it in its entirety but have read a bit of it and … wow!!!)
Fortunately, I for once set myself up so that I was not fumbling for the Zoom link at 2:15 on Thursday, and there in front of me, Elizabeth (“Please call me Elizabeth”) was on my screen and I was all alone with her for just more than 5 minutes. After our initial hellos and her news to me that she currently has mobility problems, given her recent hip replacement surgery (and is therefore using a walker), she asked me about myself. I’m happy to report to you that I edited myself; I did speak about my origins in western Canada with the Sisters of Saint Ann, and a bit about my work in health care at a teaching hospital, the Royal Ottawa Hospital, which she said knew of. Others arrived and saved me from going on too much. Soon enough, her delivery to us began. She first took the time to give details about her varied, interesting, amazing life which she believes – summed up – culminated in her appointment to the Synod as a voting delegate.
My notes include the following:
- Initial studies of the Old Testament at the age of nineteen led to her passion for it, “one that I’ve had ever since.”
- She entered her religious community, thee Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland, and first taught in an elementary school.
- When the sister who had been heading her community’s health care initiative left the community, she was asked by her superior to take that sister’s place. Elizabeth paused to explain that she did not know if she could do it, but went about doing whatever she could to make good of her commitment to at least try.
- Eventually, she found herself being invited to give talks in other religious communities. Fast forward: she was elected to the office of president (Superior General) of her Mercy Congregation, and thus became involved in the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and its 2,000 member Congregations counting over 600,000 women religious.
She explains that as she sees it, Pope Francis never lets go of his dreams for the Church. And then, Elizabeth returns to the subject of her own appointment as a voting delegate: “Taken all together” the elements of my life have led to this point.
Here, I and the others with me during this session pinch ourselves – we are hearing firsthand from one of the Synod’s female, non-clergy, delegates — and she’s so easily understood, as well as engaging in her delivery to us.
“I’ve often recommended when I’ve given talks about the Synod, to my audience to take a look at the Synod’s LOGO. We notice that it’s inclusive – people of all sizes and colours, starting with children, … with Pope Francis depicted in the middle, all holding hands and walking along together. This was not the work of a [hired design artist] but by a woman in France, Isabelle de Senilhes.”
Her points here have had me taking another look at the Synod’s LOGO – maybe, you’ll want to too.) And, that’s what a synod is, walking together, listening, and talking with one another.
A 3-day retreat “which all delegates attended” before the start of the actual Synod meetings, included the practice of ‘conversation in the Spirit’, (which is also being practiced in the Synod). Meeting in circles, the conversational process (as Elizabeth pointed out, very new to some delegates), is to pose three questions, which frame the conversation:
- What is your lived experience (of this event, text, etc)?
- What newness has come to your awareness through the other voices in this circle?
- What emerged from this conversation that we will carry forward?
For more on this practice, see:
”Pope Francis gave us Laudato si’, and on October 4, he gave us an updated document, on the environment, Laudate Deum … I do believe we are on the way to seeing that we can have a Church which is universal.”
There is more that I could tell you about our Zoom session; however, I will stop now but not before telling you that Elizabeth asked us to pray for her that she would be speaking with, among other things, daring. Okay, I will certainly do that and, if you are inclined, will you join me?
If that wasn’t enough on Thursday, in the evening, all 9 of us gathered at the Goose – along with a few others, including one of my favourite journalists / teachers, Michael Higgins, and none other than another Canadian female, voting delegate, Professor Catherine Clifford of Saint Paul University. Her honestly, ability to talk while laughing at the same time, for me, was remarkable. I loved getting to know this woman who lives, as I do, in Ottawa. (Of course, I invited her to come have dinner with Raymond and me.) In any case, I want to tell you that I wrote an email to Therese Kortobash to let her know that her suggestion of the Goose for our special dinner was fab. She replied brilliantly:
“The Holy Spirit is often portrayed as being gentle as a dove. I understand that early Christians though sometimes depicted her as a honking, unpredictable wild goose.”
Given our spirit-led grassroots work, it seems to me that the name of the restaurant is quite fitting. And besides that, the food is good!
God/de bless us, one and all.