Changing role of today's Catholic women
Regina Jackson is the first to admit that she doesn't go to church as often as she would like. And that fact troubled her — after all she was born and raised a Catholic and felt that she was somehow less Catholic because she didn't attend Mass regularly.
When she talked to her pastor, Rev. Jay Matthews at St. Benedict Parish in Oakland, about her concerns, he helped to put her mind at ease by pointing out that she while she and God might have to work out that Mass thing, she was living her faith through her life's work.
Jackson has devoted much of her life to helping and mentoring at risk youth through her work at the East Oakland Youth Development Center. The center's mission has been to help disenfranchised youth receive the same training and opportunities as their peers from wealthier communities. After working her way up the ranks for some 20 years, Jackson is currently serving as president and CEO at EOYDC.
"Father Jay reminded me that my ministry was youth and that in fact I am doing God's work. I hadn't looked at it like that," Jackson said. "Father Jay figured out a way to encourage and empower me in the work I am doing."
Jackson sees some parallels in what Father Matthews told her and in what Pope Francis has talked about in recent months on the role of women in the Catholic Church. The pope has begun a conversation about the need to include more women in leadership roles in the church.
Pope Francis has acknowledged that women have gifts that the church, and well as the world, needs. Among the strengths women bring to the table are their gifts as natural nurturers. "I don't think that it (the pope's message) is a new day but a reminder that there are few formal roles for women in the church. Pope Francis is giving us permission to embrace" women and their natural strengths and abilities, Jackson said.
Women have had a history helping the church behind the scenes. Many of the Catholic women's organizations profiled in this issue of The Voice refer to the willingness of women to help others in their own parishes and other communities. Many of the courts of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas are — and have been involved — in their parishes as sacristans and lectors on parish councils and parish financial committees.
Pat Fegan, an active member of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, said that women should feel that they are able, to step up and assist the priests especially since there are not as many priests available for pastoral duties.
"We are part of the Church," Fegan said. "We are all called to be helpers to one another."
back to top