We’ve just returned from a dynamic 25th Anniversary Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in Washington, DC, October 22-24. The event drew some 2,000 students and campus ministers from more than 55 high schools and 25 colleges, in addition to laity, religious and clergy from scores of parishes and other Catholic organizations.
The theme, “Rooted and Renewing”, highlights IFTJ’s rootedness in the fidelity to answer our ever-evolving call to live out a faith that does justice. As Beth Ford McNamee, Associate Director of Campus Ministry at St. Joseph’s University, said during her remarks breaking open the conference theme, “When we are rooted in the truth of our histories, when we radically reckon with them, then we can reach and branch, bear fruit and renew.”
The annual gathering is rooted in the memory of the Jesuit martyrs and two women murdered at the University of Central America during the civil war in El Salvador. The ongoing commitment to gathering faith communities to restore energies, celebrate successes, mourn losses, and discern how to respond to the signs of the times was reflected in the more than 50 break-out sessions, keynote speakers, liturgies, song, spoken word poetry and advocacy that filled our days.
The work of discerning the restoration of women to the diaconate is itself a practice of rooting and renewal. The conversations we are facilitating return to us to our early Christian roots, where women counted themselves among the deacons who ensured the Church was ministering to those on the margins. The restoration of women to the diaconate could potentially offer much needed renewal to a Church struggling with clericalism, abuse scandals, and ruptured trust and credibility, especially among young people.
DD team members Anna Robertson and Maureen O’Connell invited conference participants to enter this journey of rooting and renewal when they facilitated the break-out session, “Not Your Granddaddy’s Diaconate: Women Witnessing from the Margins.” The session engaged students in the history of prophetic women deacons and invited participation in the active discernment of our Church about women and the diaconate through a Discerning Deacons Student Animators Cohort.
At our exhibition booth, we talked with many students about women and the diaconate, answered questions, and gave out DD stickers, St. Phoebe postcards, our synod synthesis report Discerning Deacons for a Synodal Church, and the Called to Contribute qualitative study on women in ministry.
We also celebrated the recent publication of Catholic Women Preach: Raising Voices, Renewing The Church by editors Elizabeth Donnelly and Russ Petrus, featuring women’s reflections for Liturgical Cycle A. Congratulations to all the women in this book and a special shout out to DD’s Co-Director Casey Stanton and our collaborators Donna L. Ciangio, OP, Molleen Dupree-Dominguez, Maria Teresa Gastón, Rita L. Houlihan, Rhonda Miska, and Kerry A. Robinson!