Women in Church Leadership
Women and the Word
Synod Campaign Bears Rich Fruit

“Most Catholics don’t know that Jesus’ discipleship included women, and it’s because we never hear about them in Church,” said Sr. Chris Schenk speaking about FutureChurch’s Women and the Word campaign at last November’s CTA conference. The campaign asks the Vatican to ensure that the October 2008 Synod on the Word “puts women back in the biblical picture” by inviting women biblical scholars, expanding opportunities for women preachers, devoting more pastoral attention to Jesus and St. Paul’s inclusion of women leaders and restoring women to lectionary texts from which their witness was diminished or deleted.

Vatican Acknowledges “Contributions”
In mid-November, the Synod Secretary General, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic acknowledged that  “many contributions of the lay faithful “ are arriving at the Synod secretariat.   Here are some of the “contributions” generated by FutureChurch and friends in other reform groups such as Call To Action and Voice of the Faithful:

Over 3,000 lay leaders, priests and ordinary parishioners  sent paper and electronic postcards asking for attention to women’s biblical leadership and experience in church preaching and scripture proclamation at the 2008 Synod;

The Catholic Biblical Association passed a resolution to request bishops to ask that women biblical scholars be invited to the Synod;

Nearly 1,100 electronic postcards were sent to the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the Pope;
Scores of organizers at our annual Mary of Magdala celebrations incorporated our special prayer service celebrating the hidden women of the lectionary and distributed hundreds of postcards and forwarded e-postcard appeals;

Many leaders of religious orders told us they have spoken or written personal letters to their bishops asking for female biblical experts to serve as consultants at the Synod;
A number of bishops have privately told us they support our campaign.

New E-Postcard To Synod Officials
You wrote to your bishop, now FutureChurch is asking you to write to Synod officials. Visit the FutureChurch website and send a electronic postcard to Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, and automatically copy U.S. delegates and alternates: Cardinal Francis George, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop Donald Wuerl, Cardinal Justin Rigali (alt) Bishop William Skylstad (alt) and Pope Benedict XVI asking them to honor our requests.  Paper postcards and templates are also available through the FutureChurch website or by calling the office.

Campaign Next Steps
In addition to the postcard campaign, in coming months FutureChurch will:

Prepare and submit a list of female biblical scholars to serve as consultants to synod leaders;
Seek personal meetings with U.S. delegates to the Synod asking their support for our campaign;
Strategize with our international contacts engaging their wisdom and activism for our campaign;
Be present at the Synod to meet with delegates and international media about our concerns;
Lead a pilgrimage to Rome archaeological sites of early women leaders while the Synod is in process. Please contact FutureChurch by phone or at pilgrimage@futurechurch.org for additional information.

Moving Women from the Margins
Our church has been enriched by the witness of faithful women from Jesus’ time through today.  However, we are the poorer because their stories are left out or left to the margins. Marjorie Proctor-Smith, a professor of Worship and Preaching says it well: "When the church makes a lectionary, when it chooses which stories to tell and which stories to leave out, it gives to us or withholds from us the stories we need to make our lives. More often than not, women live on the margins of the texts, in the spaces between the words of men, in the silences and oblique glances."

Thank you to all who are working to keep Jesus’ promise: “Wherever the Gospel is proclaimed: this story will be told in memory of her.”  (Mk 14:9)

What You Can Do
While FutureChurch engages the international church with postcards and bishop delegations, the real impact of the campaign is coming from ordinary Catholics working in their parishes to make visible women’s biblical and historical leadership. Here are some concrete strategies and resources available from the FutureChurch website:

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

Take Sr. Ruth Fox’s article Women in the Bible and Lectionary to your parish and diocesan worship committees.  The article contains 14 actions and strategies for making biblical women leaders more visible-for example, proclaiming and preaching on the full biblical text.  (Ruth Fox’s article is available for free download from the FutureChurch website).

Order FutureChurch’s Holy Week and Easter resource packet. The packet contains tested prayer resources to put women like Mary of Magdala, the anointing women and the women from Galilee who stayed with Jesus through his crucifixion to his resurrection “back in the biblical picture.”

Begin a Woman and the Word column in your parish bulletin to educate about Jesus’ and St. Paul’s inclusive practice using FutureChurch resources such as Women in the Ministry of Paul by Dr. Carolyn Osiek, RSCJ.
Use our new comprehensive Advancing Women in Church Leadership and our Celebrating Women Witnesses packets for prayer and educational programs in your parish and small faith community.

Plan a Mary of Magdala celebration in your community to highlight the “Apostle to the Apostles,” women leaders in the early church and the hidden women of the lectionary.

Join our Magdala-Women in Church Leadership email list and keep updated on the Women and the Word Campaign as we move closer to the convening of the October Synod.