Women want to be deacons, want clergy to speak up about it

Twenty-three years ago, I was among the first in my home diocese to become a lay ecclesial minister.

May 05, 2016

By Christine Schenk
Twenty-three years ago, I was among the first in my home diocese to become a lay ecclesial minister. I feel strongly about the immense gift this ministry is to our parishes. Lay ecclesial ministers, and particularly female lay ministers, are the too-ofteninvisible glue holding parishes together.

And most priests agree with me. According to a 2015 study by the Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate*, 75 per cent of priests said parish life would be aided by an increase in full time lay ministers and that the Church needs to move faster in empowering lay persons in ministry.

Today, there are over 39,500 lay ministers — 31,600 of whom are women — serving the US Church. This blessed gift from the Spirit seems to be here to stay — another 22,000 people are enrolled in ministry training programs, and 60 percent (13,200) are women.

Gifted ecclesial women are serving the church in diverse ministries such as religious education, sacramental preparation and formation, liturgical/music ministries, hospital/hospice chaplaincy and parish administration.

But sadly, their ministry often goes unseen by most Catholics. These women rarely serve in visible liturgical roles and are not permitted to give a homily at Sunday Mass. Our Catholic communities are deprived of the power and richness of the Gospel preached through a female lens. And we are the less for it.

But opening the diaconate to women would change all of that.

Now some, and perhaps many, among this huge cadre of experienced and spiritually gifted women are experiencing a call to become deacons.--NCR

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