Women in Church Leadership
Women and the Word
Strategies for Bridging the Gap

All of the various groups surfaced strategies that fall into these four categories:

  • Strategies for ensuring the growth and development of women leaders
  • Strategies for building the momentum for change within the communities they serve and developing tools for outreach to larger communities
  • Strategies for empowering other women to join a new “Discipleship of Equals”
  • Strategies for effectively collaborating within the existing structure; but also prophetically challenging the status quo
  1. Strategies for ensuring the growth and development of women leaders
    • Education is essential
      • Knowing historical background is essential
      • Being theologically well-grounded
      • Study of Canon Law is important so that you can navigate the obstacles
    • Emphasis on the importance of having reflected on one’s own life story
      • Draw on the strengths and wisdom of Mother’s and Grandmother’s stories
      • Explore the parallels between their stories and the stories of Biblical women
    • Develop strategies for surviving the inevitable bumps and challenges
      • Develop a positive attitude and a deep sense of humor
      • Being grounded in contemplative prayer
      • Openness to the Word
      • Living in Hope, even knowing we won’t see Jesus’ vision perfectly implemented
  2. Building momentum for change
    • Education for the laity within a community is also essential for change
      • Increase Adult Education about early Church history and its inclusion of women
      • Educate about all the changes ushered in by Vatican II
      • Educate boys and girls together about equality and justice within the Church
      • Bring different cultural groups together to foster cross-cultural understanding and learning
    • Model the importance of reflection on personal stories
      • Teach mothers to pass along their stories to their children
      • Encourage formation of groups within which women can share their stories, struggles and hopes with one another in solidarity
    • Use old and new media tools
      • Start a Women and the Word column in the Church bulletin
      • Build good computer skills and include social networking sites such as Facebook, My Space and Twitter
      • Increase Media activism through letter writing and working to get innovative ministries highlighted in religious news coverage
      • Work to get women ministry leaders featured on local access T.V.
    • Remember to include men
      • Encourage men to become educated re: early Church, Vatican II, etc.
      • Model inclusive language
      • Help men understand the importance of recognizing and supporting the gifts of women
  3. Strategies for empowering other women to join in a new “Discipleship of equals”
    • Emphasize that the shared “priesthood of all the baptized” calls for the community to see its responsibility to use all our gifts
    • Know where the talents are and model how to share them
    • Engage in the broadest participation possible
    • Encourage everyone in the community to validate the contribution of others: empowers from the bottom up
    • Model a strong sense of self as women
  4. How to bring about effective change and change the status quo
    • Use homilies or reflections of how Catholic Social Teaching about justice should apply in the Church itself
    • Use the role of the Parish Life Directors to encourage parishioners to become comfortable with women leaders
    • Seek out other women ministers to form support groups to sustain each other
    • Be creative and imaginative about how aspects of decision making, parish leadership and liturgical language can be re-structured without being destructive
    • Reclaim an understanding of the Mystical Body of Christ that Includes plural forms of Feminism
    • Be willing to be a risk taker and a prophetic voice to name, Critique and challenge existing unjust, hierarchical, structures
    • Foster the necessary collaborative skills to sustain change in non-threatening ways
      • Communicate in a true dialogue that respects both yourself and others
      • Resist seeing and treating others as rivals and downplay the role of ego
      • Use non-confrontational strategies, such as asking questions
      • Listen to differences