FutureChurch’s 2016 organizing pack used the occasion of St. Mary of Magdala’s feast day to promote the vision and efforts of the A Church for Our Daughters Campaign, a grassroots effort organized by Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR) and supported by thirty Catholic organizations in the United States. The prayer service, composed by FutureChurch’s program director Russ Petrus, was envisioned as an an intergenerational gathering

·      in thanksgiving for and celebration of Mary of Magdala and other foremothers in faith

·      in solidarity with women of today

·      and in hope for the next generation of Catholics.

The prayer service suggested readings from Catholic women of different ages reflecting on women and the Church, including “It’s Not All About Eve: Women in the Lectionary” by Christine Schenk and “Young Catholic Women Working in Ministry” by Rhonda Miska, both of which appeared in Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Gifts to the Table (Paulist Press, 2015) as well as “Confessions” by Gina Messina-Dysert in Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay (White Cloud Press, 2015). The suggested Gospel was John’s account of the meeting between Jesus and Mary of Magdala on Easter morning (20: 1-18).

After a reflection on the readings from a young Catholic woman or someone who works with young people, celebrators were invited to reflect upon the needs, hopes and gifts of young Catholics in their lives and and to make a commitment to build a Church for Our Daughters so that those young people might “know radical inclusion and justice, equality without qualification, and a Church institution that transforms oppression into love without bounds.”  Petitions were based on the vision articulated by the A Church Our Daughters Campaign in its Declaration for Our Daughters.

More than 300 celebrations were planned on or around the July 22nd Feast day. In the United States, celebrations were held in multiple cities across 33 states, in Washington, D.C., and in Puerto Rico. Forty celebrations were held outside of the United States: in Canada, Australia, Brazil, the U.K., Italy, and Mexico. While many of these celebrations used the FutureChurch theme, Celebrating Mary of Magdala: Building a Church for Our Daughters, several communities joining in the celebrations for the first time requested copies of earlier FutureChurch prayer services that gave a fuller introduction and account of Mary of Magdala’s true story in scripture and history.

FutureChurch held its Cleveland celebration on July 27th. To celebrate the recently elevated Feast of St. Mary of Magdala, FutureChurch invited a few special guests  to take part in the prayer service: those who first envisioned this international project to restore Mary of Magdala to her rightful place as Apostle to the Apostles. Laurel Jurecki, who composed and presided at the first ever FutureChurch Mary of Magdala prayer service, returned to preside at the 2016 celebration.

FutureChurch co-founder Sister Christine Schenk, CSJ offered a reflection on the inspiration behind these celebrations and what they offered to the Church. Recalling the remarkable turnout and emotional response to the first celebrations, she said, “It dawned on me that we were touching something very deep within the Catholic female psyche. A long-buried wound was slowly being brought to the Spirit's healing light.” Reflecting on the recent elevation from memorial to feast she said, “It's not often that working to be the change we long to see actually happens in one's own lifetime. I am extraordinarily grateful for the providence of God, and for the powerful Holy Spirit energy at work in literally tens of thousands women and men over the past 19 years. This would not have happened without them.”

Current FutureChurch board chair, Marie Graf, another pioneering Mary of Magdala celebrator offered her reflections on the highs and lows of the early days of the Mary of Magdala campaign. “But we persevered – we did not give up because we knew that the chord we had struck had begun to sing a great song – and it took on a life of its own,” she said. “I feel validation for all the work we’ve done over these years – our persistence in proclaiming her role as the Apostle to the Apostles – our powerful message that women matter in this church and that we need extended roles in our church.”

In keeping with the theme Celebrating Mary of Magdala: Building a Church for Our Daughters, Gina Messina Dysert offered a reflection on Mary of Magdala and how her courageous witness can serve as a model for all: “We must follow the example of Mary of Magdala - who in the face of great danger stood her ground, honored her beliefs, and did not cower to the threats of a system that attempted to hold power over her,” she said.

Speaking directly to the latest effort to build a Church that is fully inclusive of women she said, “You may remember that Pope Francis said that women are the strawberries on the cake - well intentioned I am sure - but I’ll tell you, Mary of Magdala is no strawberry - she baked the cake. And it is through her example that we come to find our own responsibility to continue to be courageous in working for renewal in the Church, in calling for a Church for our daughters.”

Among the many who came out to celebrate on July 27 was long-time FutureChurch member and volunteer, Kathy Rossman, who said the service was a “joyful experience to celebrate St. Mary of Magdala shortly after Pope Francis elevated her memorial observance to a liturgical feast, reserved for special saints such as the apostles.” She also called the Church for Our Daughters campaign “an inspiring gift to the Church.”

To watch the reflections from FutureChurch’s 2016 Cleveland celebration, visit our YouTube Channel by following the link on our homepage www.futurechurch.org.