The Role of Women in the Church – November 2006

One of the nine areas in the Diocesan Pastoral Plan is devoted to developing the role and ministry of women in the church. The one all-encompassing objective for this group is Women: equality, role and ministry recognised and enabled by 2007.

The group consists of 3 laywomen, 2 religious sisters, two clergy representatives and one layman. As a group we would welcome more representation from young women and women with children. If you are interested in being involved contact me (Kate Acton) on +442837525592.

Initial Approach
The group’s initial approach was to explore further what these terms mean to each of us. Everyone has differing views on what constitutes equality and what role women should play in our Church. The group is also conscious that to recognise and enable women will mean some cultural changes in our parishes for both clergy and lay people. While discussing this we identified areas that we thought should be developed on behalf of women in the Archdiocese.

Mission Statement:
The group have drawn up the following Mission Statement:

Through our Baptism we are initiated into the People of God, committed to a relationship with Christ and to making visible His presence by living as His disciples.

Our committee is concerned to empower the full membership of every parishioner to make this Baptismal Gift a reality.
Because women have traditionally been marginalized and limited our focus is to explore the present obstacles and ensure their growth to full life in Christ.
Group Ethos
As the subgroup addresses the involvement and ministry of women in the church we bear in mind:
a) The example of Jesus in the Gospel
b) The experience of women – being recognised and enabled in our parishes.
c) The present teaching and practice of our Church around these issues;

Activities in Progress
1. We are currently devising a questionnaire to be distributed to a targeted cross section of women within the Archdiocese. The aim of this questionnaire is to learn about the experiences of women in the Archdiocese of Armagh.

2. We are currently educating ourselves in relation to church law with regard to the role of women and the realm of possibility with the Archdiocese of Armagh to develop this.

Future Activities
From the early stages the group recognised the importance of education around the role of women in our Church. This education needs to take place among the clergy and lay people of our parishes as in order to develop the role of women we need to influence parish structures and leadership approaches as well as introduce the possibilities available to women in our Church. This change will enable women to become more involved in parish ministry.

Recognition of the role of women in our Church is important. Their role as mother and nurturer of our children is recognised however it is important to acknowledge that women have other roles in our parish. We will be identifying female role models from the gospels and the saints including Mary the Mother of God to highlight how women can be evangelisers and shapers within our Church today.

Prayer is a very important aspect of our Christian living. We plan to distribute prayers for women twice yearly. Prayers will be compiled or chosen and adapted because they speak to women and highlight the great women of our church. It is through prayer that we can build our relationship with Christ to strengthen ourselves to be more like these women in our faith.

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