Women Deacons: Why Not Now?
FutureChurch’s newest education and advocacy resource is designed to help Catholics learn the rich history of female deacons, discover why the Church should restore the female diaconate, and implement a discernment process to surface women candidates to present to the bishop of their diocese.
Women Deacons: Why Not Now? promotes dialogue and advocates for the restoration of women to the permanent diaconate in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. At present women’s voices are silenced in our churches, their names and stories omitted from our lectionary, and their service unwelcome at our Eucharistic table. Female permanent deacons could preach at Mass, baptize, witness marriages and perform other services for the people of God.
Throughout history, women have served the church in many ways and have taken on different roles. Women’s roles were restricted and redefined as the definitions “deacon” and “ordination” were developed and society changed. Recent scholarship, however, supports a reexamination of these definitions in order to understand the role women deacons served in the early church. Women, along with men, were diakonoi, deacons, in service of the people and of the Church. They proclaimed the good news, they served at the Eucharistic table, and they ministered to the sick and impoverished.
In the same manner as our Celebrating Women Witnesses project, the Women Deacons: Why Not Now? packet is grounded in extensive historical and biblical research. Each woman is depicted in original artwork created by Eileen Cantlin Verbus.
We have created essays for each of five historic women deacons:
Phoebe was a leader of the Church at Cenchrae and probably carried Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 16:2).
St. Macrina was the leader of the women’s monastic community at Annisa and was renowned among the laity and clergy alike as a teacher of the Word and defender of Christian doctrine.
St. Olympias was a fourth century deacon and a friend and patron of St. John Chrysostom. As Bishop of Constantinople, John put her in charge of all the deacons assigned to the great basilica of Hagia Sophia.
Dionysia was a fourth century wife and mother who overcame several crises and was ordained deacon of the cathedral at Melitene, Armenia.
St. Radegund was a sixth century queen and deacon who founded a monastery at Poitiers where she served as the spiritual guide.
We have also created individual prayer celebrations focused on the life and work of each woman deacon. These prayer services provide opportunities to educate and to see women serve in the liturgical roles once granted to women deacons.
To assist you in promoting dialogue and educating your community, this resource also contains A Brief History of the Female Diaconate, Names of Women Who Served as Deacons, and Women Deacons in Catholicism? An Education Program. Our materials provide instruction on how to advocate for women deacons, eight reasons for restoration to the permanent diaconate, and the process of finding and presenting women candidates to your bishop.