Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Initiative Elevates Women's Voices: Catholic Women Preach Project Showcases Women Preachers Via Modern Tech

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Initiative Elevates Women's Voices: Catholic Women Preach Project Showcases Women Preachers Via Modern Tech

Article excerpt

Cynthia Bowns has felt the calling to be a deacon since her husband went through the diaconate formation program a few years ago. Despite the Catholic Church's rule that women cannot be ordained, Bowns started preaching to members of her parish at Mass and whenever she is requested.

"There's a great need for [preaching] from a woman's perspective, especially married women," she said.

Bowns said her preaching has been well-received among her fellow parishioners, and several of them even call her a deacon because of it.

Her time at the pulpit hasn't gone unnoticed. A couple of years ago, Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch, an organization that advocates for women's ordination and ending clerical celibacy, asked Bowns if she would be interested in participating in a new initiative dedicated to women preaching.

Today, Bowns is one of 34 women preachers who are part of Catholic Women Preach, a project dedicated to showcasing women preachers through modern technology, including internet-based resources.

The preachers consist of laywomen leaders from various backgrounds, including women religious, theologians and others who are active with their church and Catholic-affiliated organizations. All of them are volunteers. As of February 2015, according to Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, there were more than 39,600 lay ecclesial ministers in the U.S.; 80 percent of them--about 31,680--are women.

Each week, Catholic Women Preach posts a new video online of a woman preaching based on the week's Scripture readings.

Dominican Sr. Mary Catherine Hilkert, theology professor at University of Notre Dame, said she has never felt a calling to become a deacon or a priest, but she believes parishioners can benefit from listening to preachers of different backgrounds, including gender.

"I don't want to see all ministries of the word become clericalized," Hilkert said. "But even when preaching in a parish there are people--children, elderly widowed, divorced, newly married, teenagers and others that have to be there. You've got a range of ages, people dealing with recent deaths or tragedies, new baby, etc. All examples can't specify each individual, but I think the pope's message of the Gospel means knowing joy is not the same at every point in your life."

Rose-Milavec said FutureChurch launched Catholic Women Preach to give women a bigger voice within their current roles in the church because they are often times "misrepresented" and "left out." She also said the technological resources that Catholic Women Preach uses may also help people worldwide who are homebound in regions of world with no access to Mass or the Eucharist.

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"[Catholic Women Preach] doesn't replace [Mass], but it's becoming a real part of their spiritual practice and helps them feel nourished spiritually," she said. …

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