This November and for the fourth year in a row, Catholic Women Preach presented a breakout session at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. Betty Anne Donnelly, who does a fabulous job of inviting and scheduling all of our preachers, joined me in welcoming 40 attendees to the breakout, where we provided an overview of the Catholic Women Preach website and its features before sharing and discussing preaching on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe from Natalia Imperatori-Lee.

Inspired by the 2019 theme, “Radical Hope Prophetic Action,” we asked attendees to introduce themselves, sharing where they were from, what they do, and what brings them HOPE. We were privileged to create a space for honest sharing, for lifting up women’s voices, and for creating community among this group of strangers.

As everyone shared, it was inspiring to see how interconnected we all are, how much we can ignite one another’s passions as we give voice to our own, and how we can support each other’s dreams. It was also inspiring to see and hear from some men – allies and supporters of our mission – in the room, including two Jesuits.

Here is some of what we heard:

One woman shared her pain of going through graduate school alongside seminarians but being barred from ordination after graduation unlike her male counterparts.

One of the men, a campus minister at a Jesuit school, noted that – like many of the events at his school -- the women vastly outnumbered the men and wondered aloud, “where are all the men?”  

Another new friend, who has worked in parish ministry for over twenty years, shared that she believes the conversation about raising women’s voices in the Church needs to extend beyond the confines of a small break-out room and onto the main stage in front of the Teach-in’s 2000 participants.

Another young woman reflected on her recent career move to an all-male school: what it might mean for her to work in that environment and what it might mean for the school and especially the students to have her there in a mission and ministry role.

Of course, as with all good conversations, we ran out of time. But were grateful for this holy time together and for the privilege of honoring and treasuring each other’s hopes and dreams and even anger and sorrow.

While we may not always have the opportunity to gather quite like this, Catholic Women Preach offers a platform where women and men from around the world can turn to weekly – whether as individuals, classes, parish groups, or small faith sharing groups – to hear from women, to reflect on the dynamic gospel in our lives and in our world and find radical hope and inspiration for prophetic action.