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A womans priestly vocation

A woman’s priestly vocation

Published in La Croix, Wednesday 15 December 1999, by André BAFFERT and Georges DUPERRAY, priests of the Lyon diocese.

Translated from the French for www.womenpriests.org by Joanna Waller (see credits).

TRIBUTE to Claire Daurelle, a lay woman from Lyon, who died last November, and who wished to further the pastoral commitment of women in the Church.

Claire Daurelle, who died in November, occupied a special position among pastoral lay workers in the diocese of Lyon. In October 1998, aged 51 years, she was suddenly stricken by illness: a brain tumour caused a virtual stroke that affected her speech and movement. This was not a spiritual stroke, however, anything but.

Her ministry as a woman was mainly concentrated in one district of Lyon, la Duchère, where she worked for about twenty-five years, first as chaplain in the technical college, then as a permanent parish worker. When she took the post of full-time parish worker, she played an equal part with the priests in serving this large and popular parish.

Claire was known as a supporter of the ordination of women. Naturally, she was obediently silent on the matter, as required by the hierarchy, and her own ministry, very similar to that of a priest, was not affected. Cardinal Decourtray personally gave her the right to deliver the homily, which she did in her turn, in the priests’ team, witnessing with a level of preparation and solemnity of language due to the ministry of the Word of God. All these functions came easily to her.

Claire was particularly sustained, in her faith and hope, though this was sometimes difficult, by the tendency in the church to give lay people, and particularly women, access to an active and responsible role in the Christian community. Men and women who display a vocation for authentic ministry are given responsibility with collaboration. She was encouraged by seeing many women enter such ministries, as catechists, chaplains in educational or health institutions, movements. Parish ministry, the most wide-ranging, in which she herself worked, seemed by far the richest.

Her experience taught her that thorough training was essential for any ministry practised by a lay person. For herself, after the initial training, she underwent continual theological training, every year, despite her already heavy commitments. At 45 she submitted a dissertation for her master’s degree in theology. The subject of this was the theological basis of responsible, fraternal life in the Church.

This commitment to "lay ministry", stated in often incisive language, which could appear aggressive, earned her nothing but friendship. She bore out the desire, the vocation to the priestly ministry for herself and other women she knew. The call came to her when, after ministering as a school chaplain, she was offered a post in a parish by her bishop.

She quickly became the focus for people who were drifting apart in their relationships, giving her the reputation of " seeking power ". During this period, there were no difficulties with the church members in la Duchère or with the clergy team, on the contrary, those priests who had occasion to work with her were happy to share in what some called the " joie de vivre in la Duchère ".

Claire suffered from this mistaken reputation, and perhaps also because of her forceful way of speaking. For some months, she was marginalised. But when the need arose, it was she who was asked to collaborate with a priest in another busy district: les Minguettes.

Claire Daurelle’s career is all the more remarkable for the way in which she accepted her sudden illness and the imposition of complete inactivity so calmly. Those who saw her during the year she was ill and up to her death expressed their admiration for such serenity and self-offering. She devoted herself patiently to the memories of her friends in la Duchère. Her life consisted from then on of peace, prayer and offering.

It is in this way that the depth of the roots of her authentic spiritual life can be measured, in her woman’s ministry and her hopes of ordination. The great change which was seen in her was only the outer manifestation of what had led her on in her ministry, and the desire, as perfectly contained as it was expressed, for the ordained ministry.

André BAFFERT and Georges DUPERRAY, priests of the Lyon diocese.

Did you read Claire Daurelle’s own testimony?

Overview Signs of a Vocation A woman's journey Steps to take Answering critics Writing your story
Six options for Catholic women who feel called to the priesthood?

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