Cover Illustration by Wenjia Tang
Women are lifting up the Church in powerful ways. With determination and perseverance, they are building up faith communities through institutional positions in the Church, pastoral ministries and families. They are shaping the Church with courage, creativity, energy and intelligence. They embody and encourage compassion, empathy and collaboration. In this issue of Extension, we celebrate their contributions.
A LONG HISTORY
Since its beginning, women have had a critical place in the Church, uplifting it with dignity, grace, persistence and humility. In a letter of gratitude to women in 1995, Pope John Paul II recalled the many women martyrs, saints and famous mystics who have left an impressive mark in history, including Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa of Avila, and who continue to inspire women today. “The life of the Church in the Third Millennium will certainly not be lacking in new and surprising manifestations of ‘the feminine genius,’ he wrote. The idea of feminine genius expresses that women possess unique and powerful abilities to teach about the faith, to lead and to transform our Church. Today, Pope Francis often says how much the Church needs the feminine genius as each woman fulfills her vocation and leads in her own communities: family, faith, social and professional.
“Feminine Genius” is how Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis express the unique and powerful abilities of women to build up the faith, to lead and to transform our Church.
PARISHES AND DIOCESES
Parish communities and dioceses have always relied on the talents and resounding contributions of women on many fronts. Women have held leadership positions in many Catholic institutions, traditionally in education and healthcare, where they have built and managed schools and hospitals. In recent years, women have increasingly taken on more positions in Catholic diocesan management that are open to lay people: chancellor, chief financial officer and school superintendent. In mission dioceses, where parishes often do not have resident priests, religious and lay women have long sustained these remote parishes. As pastoral administrators, they lead vibrant parishes and outreach ministries often with few resources and in difficult circumstances. Catholic Extension supports many of these positions and ministries.
Pope Francis said that families are “the privileged place for transmitting the faith.” In families, women have a vital spot. Catholic Extension helps families to carry out the important work of fostering Catholic values and teaching the faith to their children. The family is usually the first place where children learn about the faith. In mission dioceses, where the institutional presence of the Church is scarce, families have an added responsibility to keep the faith alive and be places of healing, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Women are leading and transforming our Church in robust ways. Through grit, sweat, commitment and smarts, they are improving lives, fueling faith and keeping our Church strong. In many venues, they are bringing their unique gifts and talents to the Church. In this cover story, it is our privilege to feature several women on the frontlines of our faith.