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Magdalen Organizers Celebrate Hidden Women

Rabbi Alicia Magal speaking in Sedona.
Rabbi Alicia Magal discusses hidden women in the Hebrew Scriptures at Sedona event attracting over 150. Sr. Chris Schenk also spoke.

Why do people have Mary of Magdala celebrations year after year?  Why were there over 250 this year, many attracting hundreds of people—especially after the hype of the DaVinci Code has faded away? It could be that women and men seeking the church of their dreams need an unofficial “patron saint” to give hope, and to model now what we seek for Catholicism’s future.

Each year new communities in more countries hold programs wherever
the Spirit is alive…in parishes, small faith communities, private homes, prisons, Protestant churches, gardens, retreat centers and convents.  Zimbabwe, Trinidad and Tobago joined Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom on our list of international celebrations.

Spokane banner of hidden women discovered.
Spokane’s Annie Smart, Linda Hess, Kathy Finley (Catholic author) and Maggie Albo with friend Sophie Smart display banner of hidden women awaiting their true faces to emerge.
Ruth and Naomi revealed!
Faces of Ruth and Naomi are no longer hidden when placed on banner at Spokane celebration.

Hidden Women of the Lectionary

This year, FutureChurch asked planners to focus their celebrations on Hidden Women in the Lectionary as part of our Women and the Word campaign leading up the 2008 synod on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”  Maggie Albo created our special prayer service, featuring a “Chorus of Biblical Women Whose Stories We Do Not Hear,” naming Miriam, Judith, Mary of Bethany, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Lois and Eunice, and Mary of Magdala. After learning the story of each woman, participants chant a powerful refrain: But now we tell your story, for too long been left unsaid, and now we share your rising from the dead.

Scores of organizers incorporated the Women and the Word theme into their celebrations, distributed postcards asking bishops to include women’s biblical leadership and scholarship at the synod, and handed out copies of Sr. Ruth Fox’s article on “Hidden Women in the Lectionary.” (For more information about the Women and the Word campaign, see cover story)

A wonderful feast follows Memphis celebration.
A wonderful feast follows Memphis celebration.

Creativity Abounds

Mary Magdala always seems to call forth lively creativity from planners and participants.  Celebratory dancing filled the aisles at St. Patrick’s parish in Memphis, Tennessee.  Pat Bonneau-White of Las Cruces, New Mexico, created artistic and dramatic representations of Mary of Magdala for the celebrations she organizes. A California chaplain brought the celebration to women in prisons and Tary Harms of Belleville, Illinois, wrote lyrics for a musical selection. The Australian celebration reached over 200 students, and the same number of adults attended a celebration in Waltham Abbey in the UK.

Meg Breen preaches at Albany celebration.
Meg Breen preaches at Albany celebration.

Organizational Networking

Fifteen Call to Action chapters either had their own events or cosponsored with various peace and justice groups. Celebrations were also planned by local groups of Dignity, Pax Christi, Women’s Ordination Conference, CORPUS and Voice of The Faithful.   At least 60 celebrations were held in Catholic parishes and 15 celebrations were held in Protestant churches. 

Perseverance Pays

In the Diocese of Kansas City- St. Joseph, Bishop Robert Finn banned the celebration that had been held in a Catholic parish for the past five years because it is sponsored by Call to Action and FutureChurch. Our prophetic planners Janelle Lazzo and friends had only three days to relocate to the Unitarian Church.  Their perseverance was rewarded with an overflow crowd of over 120 enthusiastic participants.

Worshippers at Cincinnati celebration cosponsored by vicar for religious and many Catholic peace and justice groups
Worshippers at Cincinnati celebration cosponsored by vicar for religious and many Catholic peace and justice groups.

Parishes Celebrate on Sunday

Many parishes incorporated Mary Magdala into their regularly scheduled weekend liturgies because July 22 fell on a Sunday this year.  In Buffalo, parishioners received Mary of Magdala brochures as they came for Mass, the pastor tied the occasion into his homily, and the prayers of the faithful were from the FutureChurch prayer service.  A parish in New Jersey included symbols of Mary Magdala in the offertory procession.  In Pleasant Hills, California, a woman homilist preached to over 4,000 people who viewed a Mary of Magdala film clip and slide show, and experienced a meaningful time of meditation and chanting.

Special Awards

Sally and Jim Orgren, (pictured here) Kathy
Mang, Sr. Janet Di Pasquale, honored by
Buffalo Diocesan Women's Commission at
annual Magdala celebration.
Sally and Jim Orgren, (pictured here) Kathy Mang, Sr. Janet Di Pasquale, honored by Buffalo Diocesan Women's Commission at annual Magdala celebration.

A number of groups have now instituted yearly awards.  In Kansas City, the Prophetic Woman award was given to Sister Mary McNellis, SL, who has spent 80 of her 96 years advocating for peace, and CTA activist David Gibson received the Magdalene award. The Judy Schubert Magdalene Award was presented in Atlanta, Georgia, to Nan Merrill, a spiritual writer best known for Psalms for Praying.  Last Holy Thursday, Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference gave Mary Magdala awards to several well known women’s advocates, and in Buffalo the Diocesan Women’s Commission, honored longtime FutureChurch members Jim and Sally Orgren and Kathy Mang Haag for their contributions to women in the church.

Sharon Spilar plays the singing bowl at Sunday Mass celebration in Pleasant Hill, CA.
Sharon Spilar plays the singing bowl at Sunday Mass celebration in Pleasant Hill, CA.

Will there be Mary of Magdala celebrations next year?

Until the institutional church opens its mind and heart to the inclusive practice of Jesus and models equality and mutuality in its structures, there will always be Mary of Magdala celebrations. Until then, we need each other to keep hope alive, and to share our witness to the God in whose image both women and men are made.

 

Focus on FutureChurch

Summer 2007

 

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