Photo: Mosaics in the Apse at St. Praxedes Church in Rome potray women and men as equals.
The hardest lesson I never expected to learn in college was one of worthiness. The struggle was, and in many ways still is, a roundabout journey of discovery, during which my stubborn tendencies put forth a fair fight. And God has been patient with me, as God always is. But, with some well-placed invitations and no shortage of help, I have started to warm up to the idea that I am loved, and that I am worthy of that love. With this awareness of my own worthiness, I have also come to see the ways that my dignity as a human person, as a beloved child of God, is not always recognized or celebrated as it aught to be, particularly in my experiences as a young, Catholic woman.
My entrance into conversations of gender justice in the Church happened in the blink of an eye.The topic manifested itself organically, in my personal experience of faith and in the communities I shared faith with, but in just the last year I have been invited into the larger family of church reform organizations, and seen the concerted effort that so many incredible humans dedicate to the Church that they know and love, if not always like. It has been empowering, as a young person, and especially as a young woman, to see that others across the country and the world share my questions, my hopes, and my willingness to do something about all of it. With the encouragement of these newfound companions, I found myself asking how I could be of use.
Naming my worthiness brought with it the ability to name another truth: I have gifts to offer, talents to bring and share with this community of faith. As I exclaimed to a friend just last year, “I am good at stuff!” Given the current organization of the Church, my ability to share these gifts is limited. My desire to invest my life in this communal Church is met with an institution that is unwilling to invest in me. Enter FutureChurch. As I learned more about church reform movements and those people and organizations advocating for equitable communities in the Church, I learned about the efforts of FutureChurch. Wanting to leverage my time and talents for the advancement of such conversations, I was invited to intern for the summer alongside their remarkable team, to learn, share life, and build community. At Future Church, I have found a place to put my energy, passion, and faith to work, a place to be celebrated for all that I bring to community, and a place to walk boldly in the direction of the Church and the world that are the subjects of my most magnanimous hopes and dreams.
But what direction is that, exactly? While I only started my work with FutureChurch in the beginning of July, I have been thrown right into a research project that seeks to uncover who and how many women have dedicated their lives to work within the Church. From the Congregations and Commissions of the Curia right on down to the most local pastoral associates, this research aims to celebrate the ways that women share their gifts for the benefit of the Catholic Church. Of course, this research will also shed light on the enormous work left to be done in the diversification of Church leadership, as only a small percentage of decision making positions across the universal Church are held by women. I hope that the website to be created from this data, though, will serve as a place to track the progress that we, as Church, can make in the inclusion of women in tangible leadership. As we step forward together into the future of our Church, this website will offer a space of reflection and accountability, as Pope Francis’ words meet their metric. Then maybe, someday, we will find that God does indeed delight, as all people have a welcomed and celebrated place at the banquet table.