Women called to the priesthood
Many Catholic women from nations around the world feel called to the ordained ministries. Women feel called, just as men are. There has always been a conviction within the Church that genuine vocations come from God, and that it would be criminal to block such vocations.
Tests on women who are called show that women are as spiritually motivated, emotionally balanced and competent as men as. How dares the Church presume that a woman’s vocation comes less from God than a man’s?
St. Thérèse of Lisieux longed to be a priest
Thérèse stands behind the table as if it were an altar. She holds a host in her hand as if she is a priest, ready to distribute Holy Communion. She could not but have imagined herself a priest at that moment. “If I were a priest, O Jesus, with what love would I give you to people!” (Story of a Soul, p. 187).
“If I were a priest, how lovingly I would carry you in my hands when you came down from heaven at my call; how lovingly I would bestow you upon people’s souls. I want to enlighten people’s minds as the prophets and the doctors did. I feel the call of an Apostle. I would love to travel all over the world, making your name known and planting your cross on a heathen soil” (p. 95).
Thérèse asked for a priestly tonsure on her head during her final illness. “You see, God is going to take me at an age when I would not have had the time to become a priest…. If I could have been a priest, I would have been ordained at these June ordinations. So what did God do? So that I would not be disappointed, he let me be sick: in that way I could not have been there, and I would die before I could exercise my ministry ” (testimony by Sr. Céline, Thérèse’s sister).
Helen Blackburn on her vocation
“I wish I could have been there in Dean’s Yard on November 11 1992, when it was announced that the Church of England General Synod had voted in favour of ordaining women to the priesthood. However, I was several thousand miles away sweltering in the heat of a college in Lusaka, Zambia, where I was working as a VSO volunteer. I had taken my short-wave radio into work with me, and was at my desk listening anxiously when the results came through on the BBC World Service. I was delighted for my Anglican sisters, but couldn’t help feeling a bit sad that we as Roman Catholics still had to wait.
People at home thought of me and it was fun to receive so many British newspapers. The tabloids excelled themselves with headlines such as ‘Vicars in Knickers’, but thankfully my dad had the presence of mind to send a wonderful cartoon from The Guardian which occupied pride of place on the wall of my house in Lusaka for the next eighteen months. It was about this time that I had been thinking seriously about my future. I was enjoying my work in Zambia but could not, and did not want to, stay for ever. I had applied to a number of universities, received some offers, and eventually decided to go to Edinburgh, because it appeared to have a particularly good Department of Christian Ethics and Practical Theology. The Anglican women would soon be ordained, but some of us had a long wait ahead of us. I decided the waiting time would be put to good use. I had written some years earlier to a wonderful Roman Catholic priest, Fr John Wijngaards, after reading his book: Did Christ Rule Out Women Priests? He wrote back to me and said that we must believe that women’s ordination will come, and he said it was important to prepare myself academically if I felt that ordained ministry could be my calling. I took his words very much to heart at the time, and thought about them as I accepted the offer from Edinburgh to read for a Bachelor of Divinity degree. Read her full account here!
From our mailbag
* “Your site is an inspiration to me when I get depressed. I am a Catholic woman called to ordained ministry, and sometimes I tell God: ‘Why don’t you just take back this call, and let me go my own way’. In those times I log onto your web site, and I find the courage I need to believe the truth of my call. Bless you a thousand times.”
* “I am a recent university graduate in the US (I earned a B.A. in Philosophy). I am also a Roman Catholic who feels that ordination ought to be open to women. I was raised Roman Catholic and have attended catholic school from the elementary to college level, and have I spent the last year discerning my call to the priesthood. And, as a result, I have spent much of the past year exploring other faith denominations, and almost converted into the episcopal church in March of 2002. However, I have decided to remain in the church in hopes of challenging the injustices, and working towards change. I believe strongly in the faith of the Roman Catholic Church, even if the politics of Rome are unfair. I have been influenced by many women and men who fight for women’s ordination on behalf of young people such as myself, and although such individuals may personally feel the offence of the church’s negative view on women’s ordination, they continue to fight not for themselves, but for the young women of the church so that Rome will know that we can hear God’s voice calling us as clearly as our brothers do. If you need any research assistance, or volunteer help, I would appreciate the opportunity to work with you. Thank you for all that you do.”
This website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.
The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars’ declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.
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