Sharing the overflow

St. Phoebe Day Celebration, St. Joan of Arc Parish, Minneapolis, MN - Picture by Luke Nohner, September, 2023

As we wrap up a month-long celebration of St. Phoebe there’s a distinct feeling of “the overflow“–an expression Pope Francis uses to describe the experience of grace when a way, at last appears, often after a season of patient waiting.

Our hope was to stoke the flames of devotion to St. Phoebe and awareness of her presence in the vast communion of saints.  I think it is safe to say that – thanks to the creativity and commitment of so many individuals and teams in parishes throughout the country – St. Phoebe’s devotion is growing.  

Reports from parishes around the country are resplendent with hopefulness about becoming a synodal Church, sharing about Deacon St. Phoebe, and about recognizing the contributions of women in ministry throughout our Church’s history and today.

We want to share a sampling of the quotes that local event organizers have reported from their Phoebe celebrations and from members of their community who participated in them:

  • “St. Phoebe is a sign of hope today that the gifts of women will be more fully realized and utilized.”
  • “We need leadership that embraces the masculine and feminine, a model that was, ahem, modeled by St. Phoebe and St. Paul. Trusting one another as equals.”
  • “So powerful, inspirational and hopeful. Thank you.”
  • “Powerful conversation in the spirit among students from a range of perspectives, personal story shared by religious sister after the Spanish mass, female student sharing that this gave her imagination she did not have before about her own role in the Church.”
  • “A male friend cried afterwards as he recounted how inspired he was by all of us women, and how honored he was and choked up to read one of the prayers during the procession.” 
  • “A young woman of 25 years old came up and said how much she appreciated the courage we had in sharing our witness.”
  • “I connected with someone from my parish who I’ve known my whole life not knowing that she is also very passionate about expanding women’s leadership in the Church.”
  • “Some participants commented that they didn’t feel connected to the global synod at all until this event.” 
  • “We had some really beautiful intergenerational interaction at the event. Our two women witnesses were college students, but the majority of attendees were middle aged or older, and there was some pretty deep and meaningful sharing in the unique space we created.”
  • “Here at St. Ambrose University, we see many women in leadership roles that amplify their sharing of the good news. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he acknowledges Phoebe and Prisca, who were both women with leadership roles that amplified their ministry. But the reality of women in positions of Church leadership hasn’t been and still isn’t normal in many places. So, this is the hope of many of the people of God – to have all Church spaces be ones in which women are able to proclaim fully the good news in their own, unique ways. Because when this door is opened, it helps to build up the entire Church!”
  • A parishioner told me after, “there was something in me, as a woman that has spent my whole life in parish ministry, that had died. And today it feels alive again. Thank you.”
  • “I don’t know who exactly it hurts to allow women into the diaconate…on the other hand I know that many people are hurt by not allowing women to be included in ordained ministry.”
  • “I don’t think most people had ever even heard of St. Phoebe before.” 
  • “May the infinite and intimate service of St. Phoebe be acknowledged and accepted by all Catholics.”

We are thrilled to share an exuberant report from the Phoebe festivities at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Minneapolis. 

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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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