DD Response: The Discernment is Still Alive

"New Harmony" by Becky McIntyre www.sanaartista.com

As leaders of Discerning Deacons, we were surprised by Pope Francis’ comments given in a recent interview for 60 Minutes because our global Church is in the middle of a three-year synod consultation process which the Holy Father initiated with the People of God.  

We know of the Holy Father’s commitment to transform the culture of the church from clericalism and unilateral decision making towards listening and co-responsibility. 

The reports from every continent were consistent in calling for the urgent rethinking of women’s participation; this continued through last October’s assembly with a genuine deliberation about including women in the order of deacons culminating in a request to release the past studies on this topic. 

We trust the path Pope Francis has laid out – which indicates that the antidote to indifference is encounter. That we must listen and discern, before we decide. That we must not be afraid to dream, and we carry forth our dreams with humility, recognizing we seek to be part of a people of God who are vast and dynamic, a diverse and global multitude. 

We wonder if Pope Francis has not had an encounter with women who sense and live into a call to the diaconate as a permanent vocation. We think he would be greatly encouraged and moved by watching a recent synodal listening session we held with 1,100 people participating from 28 countries across 6 continents. We gathered together – young and old, lay and ordained –  to dream about a renewed diaconate for a synodal church which includes women and men, and to ground our dream in the lived experience of the faithful. 

There is still time. We are in the midst of a three-year global synod, consultation process. There is still time for Pope Francis to hear from women around the world who would discern a call to the diaconate in response to the many pressing needs of their communities. There is still time for the Holy Father to listen to women who have received the charisms to preach the Word of God. There is still time for the pope to listen to women who have been authorized by their bishops to represent the Church and the love of Christ as de facto deacons in rural communities like Australia, the Amazon region of Latin America, and indigenous communities in Canada. 

There is growing consensus about a vision, which is not to “clericalize” women, but to unleash the gifts women have to renew the ordained diaconate. We prepared an offering to the Secretariat of the Synod – Towards a prophetic synodal diaconate – which we hope can contribute to the ongoing discernment of the will of the Holy Spirit  

Finally, we trust that the mission of Discerning Deacons endures, as the active discernment of our Church around the question of women and the diaconate continues to be studied and discerned. Our own lived experience is that growing the space for this discernment about women’s ordination and inclusion to the diaconate, generates tremendous hopefulness, energy, and joy. We continue to devote ourselves to prayer, to breaking open the Word, to nourishment through the sacraments and to journeying together as hope-filled disciples.


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“This was such a great learning experience for all of us, and even more so, a chance to build momentum and connection.”
St. Basil's Catholic Parish
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
“We are proud to stand on the shoulders of the many women who have ministered to the people of God throughout time!”
Holy Name of Jesus Parish
New Orleans, LA
“Learning about the history of women in the diaconate gave context to efforts to enable women’s participation in the diaconate today, and it was powerful to celebrate St. Phoebe and uplift the ministry of women in our own community.”
St. John Fisher Parish
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

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