Telling Our Story to Belgians

Thursday I was the guest speaker at a luncheon organized by the Centre for Women’s Studies in Theology at the Faculty of Theology, Catholic University of Leuven (Louvain) Belgium.  I had been involved in founding the Centre in 1993.

While I was asked to speak to several questions, I did manage to describe what our CNWE team did in Rome, our rationale, and how we did our legwork with the media.  Those present were almost all young graduate and doctoral students in theology, and the reaction I heard back was deep disappointment about the misogyny in the Church (using just that term).  I was asked if I saw even a tiny crack in the stained-glass ceiling, and I said Yes — just a hairline crack.  I let speakers know that they were heard, and encouraged them to hope and to work for reform in this historic moment.  

Then I met two longtime friends for coffee, two religious sisters, 86 and 87 years old.  And they were interested in what we did as well.

So the tent expands a tiny bit further…

Susan Roll

Telling Our Story to German Women

On Friday evening October 13, I was invited to join a group of German women to tell the story of what we nine CNWE folks did in Rome the other week.

The occasion was a weekend pilgrimage in the footsteps of Hildegard of Bingen, directed by Annette Esser of the Scivias Institute in Bad Kreuznach, Germany.  The participants were some 25 women, members of the local branch of the Katholische Deutsche Frauenbund (Catholic German Women’s League, or “kdfb”) from Cologne. The kdfb is one of two large Catholic women’s organizations in Germany that total some 500,000 members.  Many of the women in the Cologne group are also members of Maria 2.0.

While the kdfb is the more progressive of the two organizations, both of them have come out strongly for the admission of women to all ministries in the Catholic church.

I described how CNWE was founded and who we are now.  I sketched the background of the 1971 proposal from the Canadian bishops led by Cardinal Flahiff that the Vatican study admitting women to ordained ministries.  I described how we prepared for the three specific events in Rome, how we made press contacts ahead of time, and how that paid off in terms of press coverage both of our presence and the rationale behind the WOW organizations’ actions.  I even came equipped with our paraphernalia and demonstrated how we decked ourselves out for the Friday march — lanyards, canvas patches on our backs, wearing pink on Wednesday and purple on Friday.  I told of how we had to meet the demands of the Italian police to carry out the march on Friday, walking in silence.

They were delighted with the strong sign of solidarity from Canada.  

And I managed to present it all in reasonably decent German, and with much enthusiasm and excitement (probably very un-German!)

And so we enlarged our own tent a bit.

Susan Roll

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