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Witnesses
Margaret Rose Byrne
June 3, 2021

“The flock, especially women in need of ministry, would be more effectively shepherded if women were clearly and visibly available as deacons. It would also allow the perspective of the female half of the human race to image Christ in preaching, thus giving a more complete picture of the Gospel.”

Margaret Rose Byrne is a retired engineer in North Garden, Virginia.

A poem by Margaret Rose Byrne

Sandy’s Knees

Toward those who went before:
Sandy and four of her friends
Established cross-country track
For girls, due to Title IX,
In my high school.
The coach was unhappy,
But could only be obnoxious.
Sandy was pushed too hard
And she was left
With badly injured knees.

Toward those who went before:
I entered high school
The year after Sandy graduated.
I had academic and athletic
Opportunities because of
Sandy and girls like her.
I also was part of opening
Opportunities myself, many of them
After I graduated from high school

Toward those who went before:
Whenever I encounter
Resistance and unfair treatment
Because I am a woman,
I try to remember:
I am doing for someone else
What Sandy did for me.

A personal reflection by Margaret Rose Byrne

In high school, I ran cross country, indoor track and spring track. I was able to do so because of the opportunities that Sandy and her friends opened up. 

After graduating from high school in 1981, I studied engineering and became an engineer. I saw both discouraging and encouraging events.

Unfortunately, in 2000, I had to accept disability retirement because of Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. While in retirement I began writing poetry. The poem “Sandy’s Knees” is one of my poems. 

I have been privileged to observe and participate in great improvements in the acceptance of women in the field of engineering. The field went from a near-standing start in 1977 to women being at all levels of engineering now, including management. 

Yes, the field is still predominantly male, and problems such as the persistent stereotypes of engineers as male still exist. (These concerns are noted in the research of the Society of Women Engineers.) However, the contrast between the initial rejection and the current relative acceptance is striking.

I am sharing my story now because I believe that the Church, as it discerns the diaconate for women, could learn from the engineering profession’s recent success in admitting and including women. How and why did they do it, and how could the Church profit from this experience?

I am not personally interested in becoming a deacon. My call is to engineering. But I desire to help pave the way for women called to the diaconate, as Sandy paved the way for me.

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Witness
“I dream of a world where girls and women sitting in pews around the world can feel empowered to follow the Holy Spirit’s call wherever it takes them, including the diaconate.”
Anne Feczko
Nurse Practitioner, Cincinnati, Ohio
Endorser
“On two occasions, Pope Francis has established commissions to discern the question of women and the diaconate. Now it’s time for all in the Church to do so.”
Fr. James F. Keenan, S.J.
Theologian, Canisius Professor, Boston College
Endorser
“I’m glad to endorse Discerning Deacons and encourage those seeking meaningful ways to pray and act together on this important question for our time.”
Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.
Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation

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