By Luke Hansen
In the comedy series “Ted Lasso,” an American football coach is inexplicably entrusted with leading an English Premier League soccer team. When the team begins to experience some success, Coach Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) quickly learns a saying common among fans of AFC Richmond: “It’s the hope that kills you.”
Any sports fan will understand this sentiment.
In conversations about the leadership of women in the Catholic Church, a more significant matter, I can find myself oscillating between doubt and hope. Might we hope that this conversation is actually going somewhere, that it is bearing fruit, that our Church could finally re-open the door to women as deacons?
Last week, Discerning Deacons celebrated “Launch Week.” Our hearts are filled with gratitude for everyone who participated and made it possible. More than 50 people participated in Zoom calls on Monday and Friday. This group alone sent more than 5,800 emails to share the good news about the Church’s discernment of women deacons. Our new website received over 1,800 unique visitors from 10 different countries. More than 100 people have signed up for Welcome Calls. Last Thursday, the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, about 325 people participated in the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry webinar that featured the Discerning Deacons team. These are signs of hope that Catholics are excited to participate in this conversation and to see it bear fruit.
St. Catherine of Siena writes, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” It’s a powerful invitation and challenge for all of us together, as a Church.
We know the many ways our Church already embodies God’s dream of love, mercy and healing. It’s often through the extraordinary and unrecognized work of women in every part of the world. And in some painful ways, our Church can obscure and hinder God’s dream — when we remain behind locked doors, afraid to recognize the gifts and call of women. That makes me sad, frustrated and even angry.
Might we dare to hope that our Church will continue to live more fully into its vocation — to fly with both wings, to breathe with both lungs, to receive and empower the gifts of every person? We know the world needs it.
The ministry of deacons — of both men and women — is one important pathway for God’s renewal of the church and healing of the world. It’s not everything. But I believe it’s an important part of God’s dream.
To hope in the Holy Spirit can feel dangerous. Yet this hope is a gift from God, and I’m willing to take the risk.
Luke Hansen is a co-director of Discerning Deacons.