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.

“[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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