Now is the time to invest in equipping the women already serving the Church with the leadership concepts and skills that will enable them to embrace the opportunities sure to come their way as our beloved Church finds her way. The first blog in this series looked at this moment through the eyes of numbers alone to see the percentage of clergy in relationship to the percentage of Catholics. Because power and authority rest with them, and because governing is one of their canonical responsibilities, it seemed wise to see in raw numbers the concentration of power. Read the whole blog post here (https://conspirita.com/category/equipping-the-saints/). What we discovered is that, in the Church in the US, power and authority are concentrated in a little over 5% of the Catholic population: all male, all ordained.
In this blog, I’d like to take a look at what God created and what Jesus revealed with regard to power, authority and leadership. Why? Because the Church is supposed to be the outward sign of God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven, the visible sign of Christ’s presence, a city set on a hill as a beacon… because she reveals what God intends. So let’s take a look at what God created and what Jesus revealed, on our way to seizing the moment to provide real leadership development for the women already serving the Church.
What did God create? God created a system that is beautiful, orderly, and characterized by harmonious relationships between all the different elements of creation. And God saw that it was good, meaning revealing just what God wanted revealed. In the midst of that action, God also chose to create beings that are in God’s very own image. The Scriptures say it this way:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it. So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth. [i]
For our purposes, what is notable here is that both male and female are created in God’s image and both are given the tasks of fertility, multiplication, stewardship, and dominion. That’s what God created and ordered.
A careful look at salvation history will show that God intended for both men and women to be part of setting up God’s Kingdom on earth, to be signs of God’s way of doing things. God worked through companions such as Sarah, prophets such as Miriam and Deborah, through warriors such as Jael, leaders such as Judith and protectors such as Esther, through intercessors like Abigail the wife of Nabal,[ii] and of course through Mary, the mother of Jesus. Women, created in God’s image, open to God’s will and inspired by the image of God’s Kingdom, are co-creators of God’s coming Kingdom. That is what God has shown us in the sacred Word.
As Catholics, we believe that Jesus is the definitive revelation of God[iii]. Since that is the case, it is prudent to look at what Jesus revealed about the use of power, leadership and the role of women in the now dawning Kingdom of God. Since this is a blog and not a research paper or a book, I’m going to use just one example for each of the three areas: power, leadership and the role of women.
What did Jesus tell us about the use of power in the now present Kingdom of God? Matthew, Mark and Luke all record Jesus teaching the disciples that jockeying for position and therefore prestige and power is not how it is to be with them. Jesus says
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”[iv]
Power in the Kingdom is not power over. It is power “for” and power “with”. Systems and structures that reveal that reveal glimpses of the now present Kingdom.
What did Jesus reveal to us about leadership in the now present Kingdom? We see in the above lesson one leadership principle: use influence in service to others. It is not for prestige. Jesus also models a leadership style that is communal, collaborative, and corrective. He gathers together a community to follow him,[v] shares his power generously with the disciples and quickly gives them authority to do as he had been doing,[vi] and he gathers them back frequently to correct them[vii]…so that they may continue their good work.
Leadership in the Kingdom of God is not solo, authoritarian and punitive. It is communal, collaborative and corrective, so that the mission may remain in focus.
What did Jesus reveal about the role of women in God’s dawning Kingdom? By being born of a woman[viii], God reveals again the indispensable role of women in bearing God to the world[ix]. It was the created design, now evident anew. By including women in his cohort [x] Jesus restores what God created in a shared responsibility for the coming of the Kingdom. And, since a woman is the first witness to the resurrection[xi], the entire proclamation of this key part of the Jesus story rests with a woman. It can be inferred then that women are critical voices, proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection and call to new life alongside the men tasked through the ages for this work.
The role of women in the presently emerging Kingdom of God is to be a full participant in proclamation, in responsibility and in witness.
In order for this sharing in power and leadership to bear additional fruit, the saints must be equipped. And that is just what our initiative seeks to support: leadership development for women already serving the Church so that the Church’s mission is full-voiced, fully staffed, fully served. Now is the time. Let’s seize the moment, equip ourselves and keep our eye on the mission the Church is to fulfill as a living sign of Christ’s presence.
[i] Genesis 1: 26-28 Berean Study Bible
[ii] Pope Saint John Paul II. “Woman’s Indispensable Role in Salvation History” L’Osservatore Romano. 3 April 1996. Page 3. https://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2bvm15.htm Accessed 11/5/18
[iii] Catechism of the Catholic Church #50
[iv] Matthew 20:25-28; Mark 9:33-35; Luke 22:26
[v] Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-11
[vi] Mark 6:7; Matthew 10
[vii] Mark 6:30
[viii] Matthew 1:18
[x] Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterwards he went on through the cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with his, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; and Joann, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others who provided for him out of their resources.
Mark 15:40-41 There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and the younger Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. http://www.crivoice.org/WT-apostle.html Accessed 11/5/18
[xi] Mark 16:1-6; Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 24:1-10; John 20:1-2