Dear Pope Francis,
When I was in my fourth year of my BA, I was chatting with a librarian (another women) about what I would be doing after I graduated. I explained that I had plans to apply to do my Master of Divinity, and then explained that I’d be studying theology. Then she asked one of the most dreaded questions: well, what are you going to do with that? I explained that I wanted to do ministry in the Catholic Church, and this degree would set me up to do that. She proceeded to tell me that there was no place for me in the Church because I was a woman. I was incredibly offended by this, and even to this day, I cringe when I think of the conversation.
I’m not telling you this story because I want sympathy, but to give you a little bit of context. As you know, there continues to be this idea that women don’t have a place in the Church. I will admit, before I started my M.Div. I was worried that I would be the only young woman studying (thankfully, I’m not!). I do understand where people are coming from when they wonder what I will do with my degree. Women aren’t being ordained, so people don’t always understand where exactly women fit in. In the stereotypical, male-dominated Church, I don’t seem to have a place. But I do!
Jesus had women who followed him, some who even stood at the foot of the cross. I have learned the stories of some fantastic women Saints who influenced the Church, like Catherine of Sienna, Bridget of Sweden, and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). Their stories, and others like them, have inspired me to find my place in the Church. I am learning about what it means to be a faith-filled Catholic woman from the inspirational women in my life every day. Will I have a profound impact on the universal Church? I don’t know. Can I have an impact on my local parish and Catholic communities? Definitely!
Your interview with La Civilta Cattolica, which was published in English by America Magazine as “A Big Heart Open to God”, you talked about the need to broaden women’s roles in the Church. Thank you for affirming that I have a role, and that it is based on who I am as a woman. Your call for a “profound theology of women” has inspired me to investigate more deeply what the Church says about women and our role, and how exactly those roles can serve the Church. It has also inspired me to take ownership of the roles I already have in the communities I’m part of.