FutureChurch’s email read, “Join the Movement! Feminism and Faith in Union.” My reaction was visceral. “Feminism” the word congers up angry, righteous, far left liberal women. I didn’t even open it.
A week later, the subject line read, “Feminism and faith in Union! Celebrating the power of activism and sacrament for today!” Somehow “sacrament” made the invitation palatable and I opened the email. I sat with the idea in the Buddhist Tradition and asked Our Blessed Mother’s advice in the Catholic Tradition and concluded feminist or not perhaps I should check it out. At least I can go to Mass. The idea of experiencing different liturgies and attending various churches holds a distinct appeal for me. On Saturday, I mentioned the event to a priest friend who urged me go. Still unconvinced later I dined with my daughter, daughter-in-law, and two-year old grandson, at their house. Discussing my quandary, together we looked at the website. It read,
Merriam-Webster declared “feminism” the Word of the Year for 2017. Feminism was the most looked-up word in its online dictionary, with 70% more searches than in 2016. Their definitions: “the theory supporting the political, economic and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests. Did you know?
I did not know! But I still disliked the word. My daughters were persuasive – one argument in particular moved me. “Do it for your grandchildren.” And so donning a salmon scarf, I found myself on the train to NYC at 9am Sunday morning feeling grateful for the adventure ahead. Walking from the subway savoring the blue sky and winter sun, I turned into the north west corner of Union Square Park and came upon the group of about 100 people, many sporting pink hats, pink and white buttons, and holding signs. I admired one sign that read, “There are many gifts, but the same Spirit . . . . all are one in Christ Jesus,” (1 Cor. 12:4ff). The woman holding it directed me to a little area with others that were up for grabs and one called to me which read “This little light of mine” with a candle in the middle and I held it up. Others were holding signs that read “Catholic Lesbians,” “We want DACA”, “The Women Who Stayed”, “Interfaith Committee”, “Peace and Justice”, and one in particular I loved had a drawing of Jesus on the cross surrounded by the words “WWJD, Who would Jesus Deport?” Many were signs of ministries from the Church of St. Francis Xavier where we would later celebrate Mass.
Three women ministers opened with a prayer. FutureChurch’s own Deborah Rose-Milavec offered a prayer as did other women from Call to Action and Women’s Ordination Conference co-sponsors of the event along with The Women Who Stayed, a group from St. Francis Xavier named for to the women who remained at the foot of the cross during the Crucifixion. A particularly moving prayer proffered by a Native American Woman who asked us to bless a body of water each day for those who go without. A trio of teen age girls from the church gave the final blessing. Then we all joined together, a joyful, peaceful stream of humanity chanting, sign waving and dancing the short way to the Church.
The enthusiastic choir, voices raised in song greeted us as we entered the Church, a large beautiful old building replete with wonderful paintings and stained glass windows. The service began with all of us turning to greet our neighbors. In place of a homily a woman asked us to observe 5 minutes of silence “in solidarity with the millions of women, and of all peoples, whose voices have been silenced. During this time, consider praying for the wisdom to become aware of those women, and others in your life and community, whose voices could be louder. Pray for the courage to make room for the voices that are missing. During the silence, look around at all the people surrounding you. If they are holding a sign, read the sign. Realize and trust that we are moving forward in the company of Jesus.”
It was powerful! At the end of the Mass, Jesuit Fr. Dan Corrou reminded us that as wonderful as this gathering had been, it was only a beginning. We need to be mindful that just as in the day’s Gospel Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were called, we too are called. Each one of us has gifts and each one of us can do something to bring the light of Christ to help other voices be heard.
I left feeling uplifted, with a better understanding of what it means to be a Feminist. I would still not label myself as such - at least not without some caveats - the word, however, no longer repels me. Conversion is a process. I may get there yet.