Parishes report hope-filled Phoebe Day celebrations

As 160+ parishes, schools, universities, retreat centers and Catholic organizations celebrate St. Phoebe in September, parishes are reporting hope-filled experiences energizing Catholics to pray for the upcoming Synod Assembly in Rome.

We had a really wonderful celebration at College Church. Both women and men were very excited at the prospect of greater inclusion of women in the church,” said Katie Jansen, parish life coordinator of the St. Louis parish.

After Rose Hesselbrock offered a reflection at St. Therese Church in Seattle, a mother told her, “Now my daughters can envision an active church role for themselves in the future because they saw you in the pulpit.”

Said Pat Ball of St. Vincent de Paul Church, Baltimore. “St. Phoebe is a sign of hope today that the gifts of women will be more fully realized and utilized. This event was the culmination of so much study and preparation and prayer, I truly felt the power of communal understanding and prayer.”

As parishioners and students learn about St. Phoebe, many for the first time, there is growing interest in understanding the history of Catholic women deacons, the charisms of the diaconate, and the questions in the Synod’s working document to consider including women in the diaconate and to imagine the renewal of the diaconate as a permanent vocation in a missionary synodal Church.

Celebrations are taking place across the U.S., Australia, Canada, Bolivia, Brazil, India, and Nigeria. Study circles focusing on the Synod’s working document have been formed. Others are learning more about the history of early Christian women. Children’s author Anne E. Neuberger featured St. Phoebe in her newsletter with a focus on introducing the saint to young people.Thousands of St. Phoebe holy cards are being shared. Kelly Adamson and her campus ministry team shared St. Phoebe’s story with students at the University of Dayton and are inviting students to be part of small faith sharing groups to reflect on the themes of the synod.

Once again we’re delighted to share with you an additional round-up of parish links to priests’ homilies and to women’s reflections and testimonies commemorating St. Phoebe and celebrating women’s essential contributions to the vitality of Catholic ministries:

For the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time:

  • Catalina Morales, a young adult, breaks open the Word and remembers her diaconal grandmother for her home parish, Ascension, in the diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Bilingual English/Spanish preacher begins at 23:05, reflection at 28:45)

  • Katie Jansen offers a reflection at St. Francis Xavier College Church, St. Louis, MO

  • Rose Hesselbrock opens the Scriptures at St. Therese Church, Seattle, WA (preacher begins at 29:35, reflection at 31:35)

  • Dalwyn Dean breaks open the word at Immaculate Conception in Seattle, WA (preacher begins at 46:03, reflection at 48:53)

  • Manon Cypher, a high school theology teacher, offers a reflection at St. Bridget Catholic Church in Seattle, WA (preacher begins at 27:24, reflection at 29:27)

  • Leaders from St. Monica Church, Santa Monica, CA (Archdiocese of Los Angeles) said this about their celebration: Inspired by St. Phoebe’s legacy of faith, servant-leadership, and dedication to community, our St. Monica Catholic Community celebrated her September 9 & 10 during weekend Masses with Scriptural Reflections from five faith-filled women leaders in our parish—Sylvia Eberherr, Teresa Cordeiro, Jenny Haggard, Leigh-Ellen Louie, and Mugs Cahill—each of whom, like St. Phoebe, lives her life with great faith, a deep desire to serve, and dedication to the Body of Christ

For the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:

  • Katie Dorner, a young adult, offers a reflection at St. John XXIII Parish, Evanston, IL (preacher homily begins at 20:10, reflection at 21:25)

  • Jennifer Reid breaks open the Word at All Saints Parish, Syracuse, NY (starts at minute 22:30)

  • Diane Blair gives a post-Eucharist reflection at Holy Name of Jesus Church, New Orleans, LA

  • Colleen McCahill is invited to offer a reflection at St. Vincent de Paul Church, Baltimore, MD (preacher begins at 33:00, reflection at 36:20)

  • Kelly Sankowski, a young adult, gives a reflection at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church, Toledo, Ohio (preacher begins at 22:30, reflection at 25:50)

  • Sarah Riggio offers a reflection at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Seattle (preacher begins at 19:25; reflection at 20:25)

BJ Brown offers a reflection for the feast day of St. Phoebe for the podcast, believe. teach. practice.

A celebration of St. Phoebe was celebrated during a women’s retreat in El Alto, Bolivia in Spanish (preacher begins at 18:05, and Sr. Dalva María Fernandes, Elizabeth Gareca and Martha Callisaya are invited to share reflections beginning at 23:10).

Australian Catholics Exploring the Diaconate, in collaboration with Sisters of St. Joseph and Catholic Religious Australia, held a retreat for women and men interested in discerning the diaconate as a permanent vocation, along with deacons and their wives, clergy and sisters. A deacon participant shared afterwards: “[The most valuable part of the retreat] was meeting the amazing women who are being stirred up by the Holy Spirit to have their leadership and ministry officially recognized, affirmed and supported by the church. More than anything else, hearing their own faith stories and call to ministry was a great inspiration to me.”

We thank you for going on this journey with us as we continue to live into this historical moment in our global Church – when all the People of God are being invited into prayer, dialogue, and discernment about women’s participation and the missionary Church the Holy Spirit calls us to be in the third millennium.

Ellie & Casey

Ellie & Casey

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“[I hope the Church ordains women to the diaconate] to bring a wider witness and expression of God’s life, love, and presence to the people of God. Women’s voices and leadership will heal, encourage and empower the lives of men, women, and children. It will call forth a new understanding of church vocation and enrich Catholic family life.”
Deedee Van Dyke
Catholic Chaplain, Joliet, IL
“The first Apostle was a woman, Mary Magdalena. She continues to remain a tower of strength for women in ministry today. If more women were ordained to the diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church, I believe we would have more meaningful and spiritually enriching homilies, and our liturgies would embrace and welcome all to the Eucharistic table.”
Sonja Grace
“If I was ordained as a deacon, it would not be a means to an end, but rather it would be a continual invitation to a deeper and broader journey with Christ. Deacons are asked to become outwardly more visible as hands in service to the Church. To respond to such a vocation would be a treasure, a deepening of my inner faith life enriched by the outward experiences of ministry and service. Both the inner and outer journey become a longing to seek and know the Christ we are called to serve.”   
Nina Laubach
Student, MDiv program at Princeton Theological Seminary

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