Discerning Deacons presented the workshop “Unleashing the Gifts of Women for a Synodal Church” at the annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in partnership with LA Synod Coordinator Karen Luna. Karen brilliantly highlighted how women are playing pivotal leadership roles in the ministry of facilitating and animating synodal, listening conversations in parishes worldwide!
During our February 25th talk we also recapped the moves Pope Francis has been making to strengthen our Church for mission by expanding women’s participation in the selection of new bishops and in leading Vatican departments, as well as the change in canon law that allows laywomen to be recognized as having a stable, lifelong vocation to serve as lectors, acolytes and now in the ministry of catechists. Bishops’ conferences and individual bishops now have the authority to install women in these roles. (Men in diaconate formation are first installed as lectors and acolytes during their process of formation.)
We spotlighted the remarkable diaconal ministry of women in the Amazon, and we took time to reflect prayerfully on the synod’s continental stage document, Enlarge the Space of Your Tent, and the good news of the sections calling for rethinking women’s participation (#60-65). The people of God in every continent are asking for the Church to expand its capacity to serve those in need by expanding women’s leadership roles in the areas of governance, preaching, and ordination to the diaconate. As workshop participants then shared in pairs what resonated with them, the room of some 200+ people was abuzz with lively conversation.
The Church’s ongoing discernment about women and the diaconate matters to many. “It’s an important conversation. We’re missing half of us,” said Deacon Guillermo Rodriguez of St. Paschal Baylon Church in Thousand Oaks, CA who attended the workshop with his wife Liliana Rivas.
A special thank you to Rosa Bonilla, Yolanda Brown, Anne Hansen, Jazmin Jimenez and Bella Statnick for joining me to offer hospitality at our Discerning Deacons booth at RECongress. We spoke with friends and colleagues who’ve been following our work and engaged many new people in the conversation – lay women and men, deacons, wives of deacons, religious, priests, novices and a bishop. We gave away hundreds of St. Phoebe postcards as we grow the devotion to St. Phoebe – a female leader and deacon who collaborated with St. Paul in the Church’s infancy.
We shared the synthesis of our intercontinental pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and highlighted the books of diaconate scholar Phyllis Zagano (who recently published Just Church: Catholic Social Teaching, Synodality, and Women) as well as a new children’s book on women and the diaconate – What’s a Deacon? – by Sr. Irene Kelly, RSHM. We shared our booth space with the good work of Ignatians West, and we subscribed many new people to our Witness newsletter – Welcome!
And as RECongress participants we mourned the loss of beloved Bishop David O’Connell in a moving memorial prayer service honoring his compassionate and prophetic leadership as regional bishop of Los Angeles.