An International Women’s Day Round-up of Diaconal Protagonists

Sister Laura Vicuña Pereira Manso in Porto Velho, Brazil, 2022. By Gabriel Bicho.

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. We celebrate Catholic women and the difference we make for our families, our faith communities, and for those on the margins and the peripheries of our world.

In the global synod’s continental stage document, the report from the Holy Land notes: “Those who were most committed to the synod process were women, who seem to have realised not only that they had more to gain, but also more to offer by being relegated to a prophetic edge, from which they observe what happens in the life of the Church” (#61).

And so today we celebrate the many ways women are witnessing the transformative power of God’s love, care and justice on the prophetic edge of our communities around the world.

Read documentary filmmaker Pilar Timpane’s poignant article in The Revealer on how Brazilian Franciscan Sister Laura Vicuña Pereira Manso advocates for women and the environment and risks her life to protect the planet. “I think that the Amazon is a region that is strategic for the world and essential for the world. And women have been carrying out these processes of defending life, land, and rights,” says Sr. Laura. (Discerning Deacons got to meet Sr. Laura during our intercontinental synodal pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City last September.)

Australia’s Liturgy on the Margins highlights the research of Missionary Sister of Service Stancea Vichie about how Australian sisters already witness to the permanent deacon’s charisms of liturgy, word and service – including prayerful liturgies with Communion, baptisms, funerals, and care for the sick. Sr. Stancea has observed that the sisters’ preaching has been “very much related to the Gospels and people’s lives and their search for meaning.”

African theologian Anne-Béatrice Faye belongs to the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Castres and is member of the theological commission for the Synod of Bishops’ assembly on Synodality. She writes in La-Croix International that women’s “place in the Church needs to be rethought completely, urgently and profoundly, as well as theologically.” She emphasizes the need for women to be more fully incorporated in decision-making processes in the life of the Church, not relegated to the sidelines where they are “seen but not heard.”

In the U.S., Ignatian Solidarity Network featured DD Maureen O’Connell’s Lenten reflection on the synod’s mantra to enlarge the space of our tents. “We’ve got to resist the temptation to make our tents permanent way stations on this chaotic journey. They are not portals of escape from the world as it is,” she writes. “We’ve got to take them down and get back to walking The Way with each other, its own transfiguration of our broken world.”

The Philadelphia Discerning Deacons Circle led our monthly prayer service by focusing on the Lenten theme of Jesus’ Transfiguration and our own synodal transformation that seeks to center people on the peripheries and margins. St. Vincent De Paul parishioner Dorina Pena reflected on how we can take the messiness of our lives up God’s transformation mountain. Anna Ryan-Bender of Chestnut Hill College guided participants in a visio divina with the image “From Fragmentation to Wholeness” by artist and St. Joseph University alumna Becky McIntyre.

As we mark International Women’s Day and women’s history month – may we each find fresh wells of inspiration to journey together and be part of impacting the unfolding history in our Church. 

In peace, 

Ellie & Casey

Ellie & Casey

Co-Directors, Dicserning Deacons

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“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
“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
“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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