Margaret Rose Byrne
Retired engineer, North Garden, Virginia
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.

“We raised so much awareness from our event, of both the ongoing Synod and of St. Phoebe and her ministry. Together, we learned of the power of the intercession of St. Phoebe, and how significant her feast day can be to carry the message of women’s roles in the Church.”
The Church of St. Francis Xavier
New York, NY
“The most meaningful parts of our celebration together included a standing ovation following the witness reflection, the power and strength of the reflection itself, and the procession at the start of mass. In the procession, young women carried in and presented symbols of St. Phoebe including an icon, the commission of St. Paul, a deacon’s stole and a pitcher of water to symbolize our shared baptism.”
St. Barnabas Parish
Chicago, IL
“Preaching on the Feast of St. Phoebe, and supporting and training other women to preach, was a joyful and invigorating experience. It is beautiful to see women claim the truth that they are called and gifted, and equally beautiful to see the People of God’s receptivity to women’s preaching, ministry, and leadership.”
Rhonda Miska
St. Phoebe Day Witness at St. Thomas More Catholic Community in St. Paul, MN; Founder and Co-convener of the Catholic Women's Preaching Circle; Catholic Women Preach Advisory Board Member

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