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Seize the Moment: It’s Time to Showcase, Mentor and Develop our Female Ecclesial Leaders

Deborah Stollery

The current crisis in the Roman Catholic Church and her calls for more women in leadership positions indicates that now is the time for Equipping the Saints: Developing Women's Leadership Capacity.

Not so very long ago Berrett-Koehler Publishers sponsored an eight-day virtual conference focusing on women in leadership. [i] That conference featured powerful women who were interviewed and given a platform from which to speak about equipping women for leadership.  The event featured women like Cheryl Bachelder, Liz Wiseman, Rinku Sen, Susan Brady, and Angela Glover Blackwell.  Oh wait…you’ve not heard of them?  Perhaps you’ve heard of these women, featured speakers at the Global Leadership Summit:  Danielle Strickland, Sheila Heen, Angela Ahrendts, and Carla Harris.  Wait…you’ve not heard of most of them either?   What about three powerful women who have or are leading three of the Catholic Church’s largest social service agencies in the United States:  Donna Markham (OP, PhD-Catholic Charities USA), Carolyn Woo (PhD-Former Director of Catholic Relief Services ) and Carol Keehan (DC-Current CEO of the Catholic Health Association)?[ii]  That IS the point.  In leadership studies, in publishing, in workshops, in our Church and in common parlance, gifted, powerful and yes, successful women, are too little known.   But they are here, and they provide a persuasive witness that now is the time to reach out and mentor other women.

In the first blog in this series, we looked at what happens when power and authority are concentrated in too few, with no checks and balances, and discovered that the Roman Catholic Church fits that description.  In the second blog in this series, we looked at what God created and Jesus restored:  power and authority to men and women who are to provide leadership and stewardship in this world together- for both are images of God.  Go here to read the second post in this series: https://conspirita.com?p=1542.   In both blogs, and again here, we make it clear that our initiative is NOT a call for women’s ordination.  We want to get to work now, equipping the women already serving in the Church with leadership concepts and skills so that they can provide even better service to a Church in crisis.  Women’s ordination is not our cause or our focus.  Good leadership is.  Since women make up around 80% of the lay ecclesial ministers, now is the time to focus on them.

We join our work with people like author and activist Danielle Strickland, a Toronto based leader who has established global initiatives for anti-trafficking, and movements to mobilize people toward transformational living[iii].  One of her newest initiatives seeks to contribute to mentoring and developing women leaders through her Women Speakers Collective[iv].  The rest of this blog draws from her reasons why now is the time to develop women’s voices.  We believe they provide a solid foundation for our work: Equipping the Saints-Developing Women’s Leadership Capacities.  With thanks to Danielle, here’s the answer to why this and why now:

  1. More than half the church is female. The voices that speak ought to reflect the constituency to which they are speaking.
  2. God is neither male nor female. [v]  God is God.
  3. The original tradition of creation and salvation history (see the second blog https://conspirita.com?p=1542 ), which includes Jesus inspiring the first evangelist in the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus’ resurrection being testified to first by Mary of Magdala, and Jesus’ ministry being supported by women.
  4. Women are great communicators. They listen to understand, they can read the unspoken messages, they broker disputes well, and they communicate skillfully to support others.   They often bring to the conversation the other elements that, when combined with the skills men bring to the table, enhance the humanity and clarity of an interaction. [vi]
  5. It’s a matter of fidelity to Jesus’ revolutionary Kingdom and of justice for arguably the most oppressed group on the planet. This is one more step in the Church’s potential to be a powerful sign of God’s Kingdom of justice, coming on earth as it is in heaven.

When all of these reasons are placed alongside the current crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, and her current calls for more women to be in leadership positions, we are certain now is the time for Equipping the Saints-Developing Women’s Leadership Capacity.  Let’s seize the moment!

[i] The Women’s Leadership Online Summit.  Berret-Koehler Publishers.  September 20-27, 2018.

[ii] Michael O’Loughlin.  “Women lead in the Church, even as Catholics debate their role”  Crux.  1/15/2015. https://cruxnow.com/church/2015/01/15/women-lead-in-the-church-even-as-catholics-debate-their-role/  Accessed 11/6/18

[iii] https://www.daniellestrickland.com/about-danielle/  Accessed 11/6/18

[iv] https://www.womenspeakerscollective.com/  Accessed 11/6/18

[v] Catechism of the Catholic Church #370  http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p6.htm  Accessed 11/6/18

[vi] For a look at the different ways men and women communicate, see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/21-eye-opening-ways-men-women-communicate-differently-arnold-sanow/  Accessed 11/6/18

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