Minnesotans travel to Rome to encourage the Catholic Church to consider allowing women in the clergy
Catholic leaders recently wrapped up a historic month-long meeting about the future of the church. The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops adopted a report at the end of October that opens the door for women to step into leadership roles in the church.
It said, “It is urgent to ensure that women can participate in decision-making processes and assume roles of responsibility in pastoral care and ministry” and calls for more research over the next year on the possibility of women becoming deacons.
“A call for continued discernment, continue to walk the road, continue to listen to various voices in the church and around the world is very good news and encouraging and certainly motivates me to just keep going,” said Rhonda Miska, a member of Discerning Deacons. The non-profit works to continue the conversation about opening the diaconate to women.
Miska, who is from the Twin Cities, traveled to the Vatican in October with a Discerning Deacons team as the Synod of Synodality was ongoing. As part of their efforts in Rome, they held an educational session for delegates participating in the historic meeting.
“It was just wonderful to serve the Synod and create an opportunity for some education and engagement around the question,” she said. “For women to serve as deacons is not something new and novel and different in that we’ve never done it before. It’s really returning to a practice in the early church.”
Popes have called for synods to bring bishops together to discuss topics since the 1960s.
This year’s meeting was historic because Pope Francis invited laypeople, including women, to vote as delegates on church priorities. One of the delegates was Cynthia Bailey Manns from St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis.
“She is very involved with Discerning Deacons,” said Jane Cavanagh, another Discerning Deacons member from the Twin Cities who traveled to Rome as part of the team.
Cavanaugh explained they had the opportunity to meet with other delegates as well.
“The other delegates we talked to on more of a casual basis, we had to feel them out to see where they were on the spectrum,” said Cavanaugh. “It’s a big, big church so [we tried] to just build relationships.”
She wanted to participate in this work because she feels called to serve the Catholic Church in a larger way.
“We have gifts that the church needs,” said Cavanaugh. “There is a deacon in me, there is a deacon in me waiting to come out and I’m not the only one. The gifts are needed so let us address the need.”
Although it is not a final decision, both Cavanaugh and Miska are encouraged by the delegates’ votes regarding the role of women in the church.
“It did pass with a two-thirds majority,” said Cavanaugh. “That was good news for women.”
The General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops meets again in 2024 and is expected to review the results of the research on the topic.
Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda said in a statement:
“I welcomed the Synod on Synodality’s recognition of the importance of discussing ways for women to exercise their gifts in the Church. I particularly appreciated the Synthesis Report’s transparent recognition that there continue to be disagreements on the question of whether women can be ordained to the diaconate. In that context, the call for more theological and pastoral research on the question in anticipation of next year’s gathering seems to be prudent. I look forward to seeing the results of that research. In the meantime, I am happy to take to heart the Report’s encouragement that we continue discussions at the local level concerning how the Church can include more women in existing roles and ministries.”