Article: Crossing the Bridge: Women in the Church
Author: Dolores Leckey
Church: Winter 2001, Volume 17, Number 4
From introductory remarks:
Crossing the bridge is, I submit, an apt image for trying to understand change, particularly progress, in regard to the role of women in society and the church. I like to imagine I’m standing on a metaphorical bridge at a certain point in time and space, which enables me to look in several directions. The first thing I see as I look back is a plaque quoting the Polish poet and essayist, Czslaw Milosz:
Our age is better we would say. No plague. No sword to pursue us, so why should we look back?” Why indeed? We might suffer the fate of Lot’s wife. Yet, if we are to note what progress has occurred, looking ack is essential.
Looking back one notices how women’s societal role has changed, as their self-understanding has changed; they themselves began to give new shape to their roles, not simply accepting what had been pre-arranged. This change has also affected developments in the Church. In a similar manner, church teaching — on the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life, on the value of work as more than economics, on the need to “put children and families first” — has contributed significantly to the public conversation about national priorities and women’s concerns.
Not only are Catholic women laboring alongside diocesan bishops, they account for 83% of U.S. Catholic parish ministers. The number of women with doctorates in theology continues to grow; these women are among the scholars who are preparing the church’s future leaders.
How history will judge our efforts during these past nine years may be disputed. What cannot be disputed is he fact that women have very deeply felt and legitimate concerns — concerns that range from abuse at home, less than equal standing in the Church.
Others are needed, women and men of commitment and courage, who experience ongoing conversion, who risk creative solutions, whose stance is collaborative, and whose hearts are compassionate. Crossing the bridge is an adventure in grace – and the company is blessed.