Successful “Sunday Without Women” Raises Issue of Women in the Catholic Church

Sept. 26 "A Sunday Without Women"

I’ve heard from women and men in Ireland, England, Canada, New Zealand, El Salvador, and across the United States who took time and action today to pray for change in the Catholic Church (go here for the map). If I haven’t heard from you, please drop me a note telling me how you prayed for change today.

Jennifer Sleeman from Clonakilty in West Cork called last August for the Sept. 26 boycott of Mass by women “to let the Vatican and the Irish church know that women are tired of being treated as second-class citizens.” Yesterday, she spoke with the Irish Times:

Of the expected success of the campaign, Sleeman said: “I have no way of measuring it. I loved a letter in The Irish Times where someone said, the boycott will be a failure because so many people will go to church to see how many people didn’t go – I thought that was lovely.

“I actually think the boycott itself now is irrelevant, the message is out there so loud and clear so that whether people go to Mass or not, I don’t think really matters very much now – I don’t think it really matters in terms of numbers.”

She said she was hugely encouraged by the letters and messages of support she had received over the past six weeks or so from as far away as America and Australia and she noted men as well as women had supported her call for change. Ms Sleeman said she was glad to hear that prayer groups supporting her call for greater involvement of women had started in Dublin and Waterford and said she hoped the focus would now shift from her to others who share her views.

“I hope the powers that be in the church have listened and heard because without change, I fear the church will diminish and I think a lot of people feel that way because they’ve just got stuck in a time warp – as Newman said, ‘To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often’.”

Irish Radio also did a story on the Mass boycott. Martin Long, Director of the Catholic Communications Office in Dublin said the Church encouraged people not to absent themselves from Mass, no matter what their views. “The celebration of the Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation is essential to the practice of the Catholic faith as the Sunday Eucharist is a pivotal aspect of the spiritual lives of Catholics.”

Many women attended Mass on Saturday night but absented themselves from their regular Sunday morning Mass. Others, such as Nuala Kernan, a regular Mass-goes in Limerick, made the decision to boycott Mass “not lightly”.

“We have been trying, women in Ireland, to be heard a long time,” Kernan told the RTE. “It’s 40 years since Vatican II and one way or another we have been using every possible opportunity to [be heard]. We wish to contribute; some women ache to contribute, in meaningful ways. ”

She told RTÉ radio the Bishops’ assertion that women were included every day in decisions in the Church did not “match” her experience. “The change has been so token.” She asked why the ordination of women as priests could not be discussed by the Catholic Church adding “the very least” she could do was to support Ms Sleeman’s call.

Thank you to everyone who worked to make this day of change a success. I look forward to hearing from you.

One response to “Successful “Sunday Without Women” Raises Issue of Women in the Catholic Church”

  1. Here is the message i sent to the staff and my friends at the Noon mass at St Francis in Sacramento.

    Dear Friends,

    I am sending this to a few of the parish staff and my fellow participants in ministry at Noon mass.

    I will not be at noon mass this Sunday, 09/26/10. I am abstaining from mass in solidarity with other Catholic women-the women of Ireland, who are stunned by the pervasiveness of the abuse in Ireland; the women who minister in other parishes throughout the world who are not valued and respected as we are at St Francis; the sisters who are investigated because of their implementation of the gospels and loyalty to Christ above rules; and, the women who hear the call to priesthood and are vilified by the hierarchy and equated with sexual abusers.

    I have spent signigicant time in prayer to discern whether i would participate in this symbolic action. My decision to join in solidarity with these women has nothing to do with my respect and appreciation of Fr Anthony, Sr Peggy, Deborah, Michael or the other staff at St Francis. I love each of them for who they are and the gifts they so generously share with us. It is because of the many ways they acknowledge the wisdom and sincerity of the feminine that i feel a strong need to stand strong and straight (because its impossible for me to stand tall) with the oppressed women of the Catholic church.

    I will be praying with and for all of you on Sunday. Please remember me in your prayers, also.

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