We flew home on March 27th with lots of great memories and warm feelings for all those who accompanied us on the trip. We learned more than could be reflected in our itinerary.
It as a privilege to accompany 31 extraordinary women and men on a pilgrimage to Rome visiting the sites of early Christian women leaders. Led by our academic scholar, Sr. Carolyn Osiek, we learned how women functioned in early Christianity and explored sites with ancient frescoes, mosaics, sarcophagi friezes, ancient house churches, catacombs and basilicas bear the names of women leaders like Priscilla, Pudentiana, Praxedis and Domitilla.
At many of the sites, we held prayer services led by spiritual director, Sr. Christine Schenk. Her beautiful services helped us bring to mind our fore-mothers in faith, as well as, women today who have led with courage and fidelity in hundreds of ways in our Church and in our world.
The time together also afforded us the extraordinary opportunity to learn about the lives of early Christian women leaders from other participants in the group, experts in their own right. Academics, clergy and leaders from the US, Canada and the UK generously shared their work, ministry and scholarship with all.
To read our pilgrimage blog CLICK HERE.
FutureChurch at Vatican Radio
Chris and I also met with Philippa Hitchens of Vatican Radio who conducted not just one, but three interviews with us. Here is a link to the interview she conducted with Chris as we prepared to begin our pilgrimage.
As Chris noted, our exploration of earliest Christianity and the roles women offers deep insights and inspiration for women’s leadership today. Going forward, FutureChurch will be expanding our pilgrimage destinations to learn about women’s leadership in Greece and beyond.
Another aspect of our work in Rome involved visiting several Vatican offices. In each and every office, Sr. Chris and I were welcomed and entered into respectful cordial conversations regarding our concerns for the future of Church leadership and ministry.
Congregation for Clergy
At the Congregation for Clergy we discussed our concerns regarding the shrinking numbers of priests and parishes and our hope for dialogue regarding optional celibacy. The representative affirmed our concerns and offered his frank assessment of the current state of the Church. He also received our packet with over 20,000 signatures asking that church leaders open the discussion on optional celibacy and invited us to stay in touch with his office.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
At the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith we met with another representative and engaged him in a discussion regarding women deacons. The exchange was friendly and frank. He received our packet with nearly 13,000 signatures calling for the restoration of the permanent diaconate to women.
Synod of Bishops
At the office of the Synod of Bishops we spoke with a representative sharing our concerns regarding the inclusion of women theologians and theologians with families during the working sessions of the synod. We learned Pope Francis and Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri are making significant changes to the processes at the Synod of Bishops. As a starting point, Cardinal Baldisseri moved beyond convention when he sent the preparatory document, the lineamenta, to all the bishops in the world and not just the heads of the Bishops’ conferences. It is clear that Pope Francis is strengthening the Synod of Bishops and expanding their role in the decision making processes of the Church.
FutureChurch will continue to monitor events leading up to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family and advocate for inclusion of Catholic voices, including those of women theologians and theologians with families in Rome in October when the synod begins.
Pilgrimage participants write letters
During the week, our participants were eager to get on board with our postcard and letter writing campaigns. We sent postcards to Cardinal Gerhard LudwigMueller urging the diaconate be restored to women, as well as letters to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldiserri asking him to include women theologians and theologians with families in the work of the synod. We also sent copies of our Celebrating Women Witnesses in Spanish to Pope Francis which included information about the many women leaders missing from the Lectionary!
The week was truly inspiring. We entered into the ancient footsteps of our fore-mothers in faith, learned about their lives and saw more clearly our own call to be courageous leaders in this age.