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Synod Likely To Invite Women Scholars
Two Cardinals, Bishops Quietly Support Initiative

On August 8, Rome Correspondent Robert Mickens reported that “at least two American cardinals and a number of bishops” have quietly backed FutureChurch’s two year effort to invite women biblical scholars to October’s Synod on the Word.  Mickens mentioned our Women and the Word campaign in his weekly column Letter from Rome published in the August 8 issues of the British journal The Tablet.

At press time there were unconfirmed reports that women scholars would be invited, though the list of experts had not yet been released by the Vatican.

On July 22, the Feast of St. Mary of Magdala, an important global express packet was sent to Archbishop Nicolas Eterovic,
secretary general of the World Synod of Bishops, Cardinal William Levada, a synod presider, and Pope Benedict XVI.  Inside were a list of 23 female biblical scholars, documentation of 18,000 postcard requests, extensive background resources and a cover letter asking for the inclusion of women scholars at the upcoming world synod on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”  Similar packets were sent to bishop delegates from the United States, Canada, Ireland and Australia to the October 2008 meeting in Rome.

Simultaneously, Women and the Word campaign supporters were in the process of arranging personal meetings with bishop delegates. At press time, advocates had met with or received substantive communications from two of the U.S. delegates. Both expressed openness to synod requests though neither specifically committed to raising them at the synod at this juncture. One delegate said he thought female scholars were being invited but he didn’t know for sure. Another promised to consider doing a diocesan program about women in the ministry of St. Paul during the Pauline year.

FutureChurch Executive Director Sr. Chris Schenk is following up via telephone and email with North American and international bishop delegates asking to meet with them while she is in Rome.  Several national and international religious media outlets have expressed interest in reporting on the progress of the Women and
the Word campaign. 

Schenk’s cover letter to the bishop delegates summarizes the validity and importance of  the Women and the Word campaign. After describing the unprecedented longevity of FutureChurch’s international Mary of Magdala celebrations (now in their eleventh year), she wrote: 

One of the reasons the Mary of Magdala celebrations are so popular is that Catholic women and men are edified to discover that Jesus included women in his Galilean discipleship.  Most Catholics mistakenly believe that Jesus called only men, when in fact Luke 8:1-3 tells us Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Susanna and many other women accompanied him in Galilee. Since the Lukan reading is never read on a Sunday, the stories of Jesus’ women disciples are rarely if ever the subject of homiletic attention.

Many also believe St. Paul was anti-women.  Yet, as Pope Benedict himself said so well, St. Paul worked closely with women leaders such as Phoebe, Junia, Lydia and Prisca (papal address February 14, 2007).  Unfortunately, the Romans 16 reading that names these important leaders in the early church is never proclaimed on a Sunday. Likewise the accounts of women leaders in the Acts of the Apostles (Lydia, Prisca, Tabitha) are only read on the weekdays of Easter, so most Catholics never hear about their important ministry alongside Paul.

This creates significant pastoral challenges to evangelizing 21st century women and men who are accustomed to seeing women serving in professional and corporate leadership roles, not to mention prominent civil leadership roles. If we wish to reach the next generation of Catholics, there is a need for Catholic preaching and reflection on the Word to reflect the gender balance found in Jesus’ and Paul’s counter-cultural practices.

FutureChurch hopes to generate 20,000 postcards by the time the international biblical synod opens on October fourth.  It’s not too late to send an electronic or paper postcard and sign up for regular updates from Rome. (See box page one)

Campaign Raises $7,000 via the Internet. A special thank you to those 90 individuals and organizations who supported our first ever E-Appeal, helping us raise over $7000 in just two weeks this past June. In this time of a weakened dollar, these donations will help meet our travel costs for the Rome Synod. 

Of course we still need donations. If you can help please write “women’s campaign” on the donation form on page nine of this newsletter and return it with your contribution.

In coming months we will seek support from individual benefactors to make sure we have resources to do the all-important follow up after the synod.  Please check our website at www.futurechurch.org and click on the Women and the Word icon for the latest campaign updates.

Delegates to the Synod on the Word

United States
Cardinal Francis George, Chicago, IL President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference
Bishop Gerald Kicanas, Tucson, AZ Vice-president of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Houston, TX
Archbishop Donald Wuerl, Washington, DC
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Philadelphia, PA (alternate)
Bishop William Skylstad, Spokane, Washington (alternate)

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., Ottawa, ON
Bishop Ronald Fabbro, C.S.B. London, ON 
Bishop Luc Bouchard, St. Paul, AB  
Bishop Raymond St-Gelais, Nicolet, QC

Synod Requests

  • Invite women biblical experts.
  • Devote more pastoral attention to Jesus’ and St. Paul’s inclusion of women leaders.
  • Expand opportunities for women preachers.
  • Restore biblical women leaders to lectionary readings in which their witness was diminished or deleted.

What You Can Do
Visit www.futurechurch.org to:

CIRCULATE an e-postcard to Synod Secretary General Nikola Eterovic and U.S. delegates to the synod from www.futurechurch.org.

JOIN our Magdala-Women in Church Leadership email list and receive regular updates from Sr. Chris Schenk who will be in Rome during the Synod.

DOWNLOAD a free copy of Sr. Ruth Fox’s Women in the Bible and Lectionary for your parish and diocesan worship committees.  Contains 14 strategies for making biblical women leaders visible.

ORDER FutureChurch’s Lent and Holy Week prayer resources to put Mary of Magdala, the anointing women and the women from Galilee “back in the biblical picture.”

ORDER our Advancing Women in Church Leadership and Celebrating Women Witnesses packets for prayer and educational programs in your faith community.

DOWNLOAD special resources to celebrate Jesus’ and St. Paul’s inclusive practice, especially during the year of St. Paul.


Focus on FutureChurch

Summer 2008


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