Women in Church Leadership
Women and the Word
Summary of Afternoon Panel

Women who work in minority cultures need to be rooted in and sensitive to the distinctive ways in which women claim influence in their particular cultures. Fe Musgrave stressed the matriarchal nature of the Philippines where there is a strong reliance on strong, older women as wisdom figures. Each of the women also had a strong sense of standing on the shoulders of the women who had gone before them: strong mothers, grandmothers, aunts and mentors. Each of the women was also grounded in her own personal story and life experiences. Some examples include:

  • Maria taking a strong stance with her fiancé which allowed her to negotiate a far more equal partnership in her marriage; despite the dominate machismo of Latin Culture.
  • Juliette writing to the Pope at twelve years of age to complain about the lack of female altar servers.

The awareness of their own stories then enables them to be open and compassionate to the personal stories of those they encounter in their ministries. To be as effective as possible in their ministries, they must be very persistent and creative in ascertaining what paths are open or can be opened. Julie Marsh-Williams studied Canon Law in order to understand exactly what ministerial and pastoral possibilities are genuinely open for women.

However, it is still clearly the fact, that women’s ministry is severely constrained by the existing power structure in the Church. Bishops and Pastors still have the ultimate authority to hire and fire. Thus, they control all opportunities for women to serve in leadership.