Want more news? Read our e-newsletter archive, and sign up online to stay current.

Parish Program on Women Leaders in Early Christianity

By Robin G. Senior

On a morning in early May, I drove out to the eastern end of Long Island to celebrate Mary Magdalene and the women leaders of early Christianity. My friend, Cris, had placed a notice in the parish bulletins of her church as well as the neighboring two parishes. It read: “Women: The Unsung Heroes of the Church: In the context of a prayer service, come and learn about some of the women leaders in the early Church. Hear about Sophia, a deacon, Veneranda, Petronella and Bitalia, teachers in the manner of Saints Peter and Paul, and others.” It also gave my name and qualifications, date, time and place.

About twenty-five women showed up. Of course, Cris has a group who meets regularly and most of them were from that group, but three women came from neighboring parishes. Light refreshments were served and we got started around 10:30. I conducted the service using a PowerPoint presentation, projecting the prayers and responses as well as many slides of frescoes, mosaics, and other artwork on a screen. Several slides had music to set the mood since I used guided meditation to move the audience from one period of time to another.

In the middle of the service I divided the women into groups of eight and asked that they give suggestions of how they thought women could be better recognized in the Church today. The suggestions included:

  1. Have more female pastoral associates and allow them to preach the homilies on designated Sundays.
  2. Allow women to preach period.
  3. Have more readings of women in the Lectionary and don’t skip over the ones that are optional.
  4. Each parish should have a committee to look at the documents of Vatican II and make sure that they are being followed.
  5. Allow women to be deacons.
  6. Have more parish programs to educate women about women in Church leadership.

The discussion lasted about twenty minutes. We ended with the ritual blessing and I gave them the choice of anointing each other with oil, water, or earth that I had brought back from the Holy Land. The entire presentation including questions and answers was an hour and a half.

I handed out the Op-Ed piece for this year’s St. Mary of Magdala Celebration with FutureChurch’s mission and website at the bottom of the page and several women said they would check it out. The feedback was positive. Most of the women were not aware that there had been so many women in leadership positions in early Christianity. Hopefully there will be again!

Focus on FutureChurch

Fall 2010

Archive of Past Articles