“I watch women…claim their call to preach with more confidence and love.”

Rhonda Miska breaks open the word on St. Phoebe Day at St. Thomas More in St. Paul, MN in Spetember 2023. (Photo credit: Brennan Hall)

An interview with Rhonda Miska

Rhonda Miska strives to live out her vocational call to preach. She serves at the Church of St. Timothy in Blaine, Minnesota, is a member of the Catholic Women Preach Advisory Board, and is the founder and co-convener of the Catholic Women’s Preaching Circle. Rhonda holds a MA in Pastoral Ministry from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

Talk about a time when you experienced the call to serve as a minister of the Word.

At Dominican University in River Forest where I served in University Ministry, we had a hard time getting priests for our Masses, and I would be asked to preside at a Liturgy of the Word. I read the scriptures every day and imagined how I would preach if asked to do so. I loved the discipline of being ready to jump in without a lot of notice. Afterwards students came to the ministry center to hang out or do homework and there were opportunities for informal conversations that grew out of both the content of what I said as well as the experience of having a woman preside and preach at a Liturgy of the Word.

Tell a story about your preaching ministry and how it flows from your relationship with a faith community.

I co-convene the Catholic Women’s Preaching Circle, a virtual peer community to encourage one another in breaking open the Word of God. At the beginning of a new 10-week cohort, I preach the Gospel of John, chapter 20, in which there’s this beautiful intimate encounter between Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the garden. Jesus sends her forth to proclaim the Good News of his resurrection with the words, “go to my brothers.” And Mary announces to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” In this circle, I watch women grow, develop, and claim their call to preach with more confidence and love. 

How do you work in a co-responsible way with the priests and lay people of your parish?

At St. Timothy Church we have a collaborative team and a culture of affirming and celebrating one another. Our pastor hires good people, and he trusts us. Last year I preached a retreat to the BeFriender Ministers who visited the homebound. Also, as Director of Communications, I manage all our print and digital communications. I work to engage people in our outer circles and make sure that various forms of digital outreach (website, social media, and podcast) help people to feel welcomed. 

What sustains you in ministry?

The Eucharist, prayer, an annual retreat, the communion of saints and community with others through the Preaching Circle, Discerning Deacons and my spiritual direction supervision group.

What is a favorite scripture passage that gives you strength and resilience for these times?

I love scripture! I love the psalms, especially Psalm 57, verse 7 – “My heart is ready, Oh God, my heart is ready.” 

 

What barriers or constraints do you face for living out your vocation today?

 I feel a great sense of love and commitment to Jesus, to the people of God, and to the Church — and to the particular people I serve. However, as a woman I cannot overcome the barrier of being un-ordainable. There is a vulnerability and a contingency about being a Catholic woman in ministry that is exacerbated by the structure. I do not have the capacity to preach the homily, but I adapt and find other ways to preach.

 

What is your hope for this global Synod in which the Church is discerning the renewal of the ordained permanent diaconate for the social mission of the Church – that could possibly include men and women? 

 

I hope for a deep focus on mission. How are we hearing the cry of the earth? How are we living our preferential option for the poor? When I worked in Hispanic Ministry it was difficult to visit people in immigration detention centers without ordination. In addition to opening doors for jail/prison/detention ministry, as a deacon, I also would be able to preside at parish baptisms and weddings. When there is a visual of a woman preaching, the girls and women in the pews are thinking, “Now there is someone who looks like me.” The more people can see women as authorized ministers, the more each of us as Catholics can see our baptismal dignity, our call, our sense of co-responsibility in mission and participation. It’s the opposite of clericalism.

What is the anniversary date of your baptism?

I was baptized on September 14 at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Middleton, Wisconsin. It’s the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

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Endorser
“I have worked alongside many lay and religious women in my ministry who have exhibited outstanding ability for ministry.  Many have taught me by their example how to be a more effective minister, and by their instruction, helped me to grow in this role…It’s time that the Church gets in step with society and recognizes the equality of women in the workplace.  Women are as capable as men in the work of ministry, and have demonstrated the same equality in scholarship, skills and education as men.”
Fr. Joseph A. Genito, O.S.A
Pastor, St. Thomas of Villanova Parish, Philadelphia, PA
Witness
“If there were women deacons in my parish, lay women would relate in a deep and meaningful way to deacons who look, act, speak and feel more like themselves…Though I am an unlikely choice to wear the alb and stole, I have a deep commitment to service in Christ’s name and I try to live it every day. Any need that arises, I am ready to shoulder it, though some needs of our sisters and brothers would be well- or better-served by a woman’s different compassion.”
Deacon Bill Zapcic
Parish Deacon and Homilist, Retired Journalist, Tinton Falls, NJ
Endorser
“Not only is ordaining women as deacons a restoration of the dynamism of the early Church, it is a matter of justice!”
Fr. Stephen P Newton, CSC
Executive Director, Association of US Catholic Priests, Notre Dame, IN

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