Sacrifice, women and ministry: That’s then this is now

People on the edges are what the Church sacrifices most today Elizabeth Young RSM told the conversation on Flashes of Insight.

She describes these people as ‘lost opportunities’.

Young, a pastoral worker who once worked in a large diocese, says that city dioceses, hospitals, schools and parish communities are generally well resourced and have good systems in place, however, there is an issue on the “missionary edges”.

As a sacramental church, the limited resources go first to priests who can celebrate sacraments Young told Flashes of Insight.

She thinks that people are missing out and the Church is sacrificing lots of opportunities by not being able to offer sacraments to people who are being cared for by those who love them and committed to them.

“Sacraments add just so much to ministry”, she added.

Young says she loves the fact the Catholic Church is a sacrament-based church but wonders what might be when something so valuable to those on the margins is not available to them.

“Our church is perhaps sacrificing the ability to be there with people Jesus would have been with”, she said.

Young says we love the Church but in these times need a lot of hope in Christ, as the Church continues to develop.

Kate Bell a theologian and catechist with the Palmerston North diocese in New Zealand makes the issue tangible.

She describes women’s ministry, as, at times, “doing the role with our hand behind our backs and a gag in our mouths.”

Bell says it is the Church that is making the sacrifice; the sacrifice and cost to the Church is the loss of potential not being brought into actuality.

It is a point that Jo Ayers, an Auckland theologian and author amplifies, saying she often wondered what would happen to the church if women went on strike for a generous amount of time.

Shifting the conversation back to liturgy, Ayers told Flashes of Insight that women’s role of service in the community needs to be reflected in all areas of the liturgy; preaching, welcoming, blessing, missioning, breaking and distributing the bread and ultimately leading the Eucharist.

However, in an apparent contradiction, Ayers however says she is not advocating for women priests!

“A lot of women would not want to be part of priesthood at the moment”, she said.

“Women are not into hierarchy and layers of clericalism”.

With the conversation ebbing and flowing around ‘women sacrificing to belong to the Church’ and the ‘Church’s sacrifice by not having women fully involved’, Fiona Dyball, a theologian and office holder at the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference says the Church has to find a way forward so women can feel more a part of the Church’s liturgy.

She recommends people read “Faithful Stewards of God’s Grace” a document for lay pastoral ministers in the Australian church.

Warning of a potential fracture, Dyball says “If the Church does not engage people in the liturgy people will end up doing it for themselves”.

Dyball says the Church, women and society are very different to even a few years back when women had a strong focus on the Church”.

“It’s good that women are not as involved. That’s then, this is now”.

Women have different things they want to put their lives into and she is glad people do not spend “every waking moment at the buildings”.

Dyball emphasised the proper role of sacrifice, and that today it is primarily measured in time.

She was quick to respond saying women, people, are not cheap labour, and that it is important to know what gifts people have in order that they might rightfully offer them to the community.

She says it is just as important for people to know their boundaries.

There is little point to making sacrifices in the name of a power structure that no longer exists and is not serving the community today, she concludes.

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Ministry clarity or crumbs from the table?

Anything that authenticates, makes visible and validates women’s ministry will help women take their rightful place in the Church says Kate Bell, a theologian and catechist.

She made the comment on Flashes of Insight, a conversation between herself, and fellow theologians, Fiona Dyball, Elizabeth Young and Jo Ayers.

The women discussed the newly approved ministries for women of Lector, Acolyte and Catechist.

“I think it is helpful that Canon Law has been changed and women are formally allowed into ministry.

“It’s got to be helpful that women because of the ‘womenness’ are no longer excluded from ministry.

However, her view is not all ‘clear water’, Bell telling the conversation she has a slight concern that formal recognition of these ministries might alienate the baptised who have been performing them for a long time.

“The people of God, the baptised, might become further disenfranchised from ministry by yet  another layer and another process.”

While keen to see the introduction of formal ministries Bell does not want ministry to happen only when it is recognised.

“It’s the job of all of us to be involved,” she said.

Host, Joe Grayland politely suggested Bell was ‘sitting on the fence’.

Continue reading “Ministry clarity or crumbs from the table?”