Bearing Witness to Women's Empowerment

Different geographies. Different strategies. But the same intention: to bear witness to the realities of women's struggle and empowerment. Three women share their faith-driven passion, experiences, and lessons from lifetimes of advocacy and action with communities around the world. Journalist Cathy Huyghe will host a conversation with Christine Fernando, Sri Lankan sister and tireless advocate for women,

Biotheology of Sex, Gender, and Relationship

This interactive discussion will focus on demonstrating how sex, gender, and Relationship form three inter-related polydimensional continua and how these human facets function together to form the whole person. Dr. Roberta Meehan, M.Div, RCWP and professor of biology will lead this interactive experience, concluding with resources on how to instruct and educate clergy, teachers, and others on the applications of these concepts to theological and clerical issues.

Complementarity: A New Name for an Old Patriarchal Tool

This workshop traces the history of the concept of complementarity in the Catholic Church and examines how it is used today to keep women out of the halls of decision-making, power and ministry. Deb Rose-Milavec, M.Div and executive director of FutureChurch, will equip Catholics with the knowledge they need to articulate the danger complementarity poses to true equality for women in the Church, as well as identify ways Catholics can educate their bishops and other leaders about this patriarchal tool.

Confecting the Pope: a Rehearsal

Play is a critical aspect to an adult’s balanced life, and theatre can be a rehearsal for revolution. This workshop, led by Victoria Rue, M.Div., Ph.D, RCWP and Sibyl Dana Reynolds, MA, RCWP bishop emerita will allow participants to use their sacred imagination and their sense of play. Research in neurophysiology, developmental and cognitive psychology, animal behavior, and evolutionary and molecular biology have shown the importance of play in shaping brains, creating competencies, and balancing our emotion.  With women’s concerns and struggles on the ascendency globally, we will rehearse the future of a woman Pope, and the Church that would need to exist for her election through storytelling and improvisations.  While imaginative exercises will provide both fun and insights, the workshop is also a serious rehearsal for the changes we would like to make in our church.

Dancing through Closed Doors

So you're a Catholic woman called to priestly ministry. Now what? Join in conversation two women who refuse to let the hierarchy determine the path of the Holy Spirit. Jacqueline Straub (Switzerland), Colette Joyce (UK), and Katharine Salmon (UK) and have found creative, faithful, and fruitful ways of living their vocation: dancing through closed doors. This workshop is a space for women holding, nourishing, discerning, and thriving in their priestly call.

From Suppression to Freedom

Explore Canon Law, Vatican II documents, and parallel works by theologians and archaeologists to trace the Roman Catholic practice of suppressing women, and discuss historical and modern strategies used to challenge them. With years of experience and expertise Dr. Dorothy Irvin, Dr. Ida Raming, Joan Hoak, M.Div., will lead this discussion to a hopeful and empowered place for women in the Roman Catholic Church.

Imagery Promoting Racism in Gospel Literature

This workshop will explore language and imagery from the 1st century Gospels, especially the Gospel of John, which promotes a theology of God that implies racism and systems of oppression.  Additionally, Tracy Garrison-Feinberg, Olivia Doko MA, and Jane Via, Ph.D, will highlight the language in the Gospels which has historically promoted anti-Judean/Jewish/Semitic thought and actions. The language to be discussed continues to be used by Christians to evoke fear and justify anti-Semitic and racist attitudes, beliefs, and violence toward Jewish people and people of color. The new cosmology supports a new language about God, one that does not promote racism.

Inclusive and Empowered: The Women Priests Movement, Renewing the Church Now

From California to Germany, from Canada to Columbia, the people of God are discovering inclusive, collegial ways to worship in Spirit-empowered communities which honor the dignity of all. Discover the diverse ways womenpriests and their communities are living the prophetic vision of a renewed model of church in the 21st century.  This interactive workshop gives a visual overview of worldwide, diverse worshiping communities developed by women priests and challenges participants to live the Gospel call of justice as they began to form their own communities of faith. Led by Roman Catholic women priests, Jennifer O’Malley, Mary Theresa Streck, Bridget Mary Meehan, and Eileen McCafferty DiFranco.

New Research on Mary as Priest

The first purpose is to open our hearts and minds and forget everything the Church ever told us about the demure mother of Jesus.  The second purpose is to experience textual and iconographic artifacts from early Christianity and Late Antiquity that depicted Mary as a priest or bishop.  Ally Kateusz will share her emerging research on Mary and guide the discussion, with highlights of depictions of Christian co-priests during this era.

St. Gertrude: Uncovering Her Path to Sacramental Prayer  

Saint Gertrude the Great of Helfta, a 13th Century German Benedictine, mystic, and theologian forged a path of unmediated sacramental prayer experiences that women and men looking for a new models would be surprised to uncover. Gertrude wrote prayer exercises using the sacraments which are incarnational, earthy, using images and symbols of water, fire, oil, light, bodies. The experiences are between the person and Jesus, unmediated by clergy or religious authority. A love mystic, Gertrude had a deep sacramental spirituality despite the teaching of her day that emphasized unworthiness. The sacraments were controlled, regulated and discouraged in her day. Anne McCarthy, OSB, member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, is on staff at Benetvision ( ) and Monasteries of the Heart will lead this creative and sacramental workshop, including a prayer experience, with St. Gertrude as a trail guide, attempting to rediscover her method new, for our time.  

The Unfinished Business of Vatican II: The Ecofeminist Theology of Elizabeth A. Johnson

In this workshop we will explore the ecofeminist theology of Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson as the continuation of three areas of Catholic business that remained unfinished after Vatican II: the relationship between the horizontal and the vertical, the pivotal significance of creation in Catholic teaching, and the role of women in the Church. Marian Ronan, Jack Downey, and Jamie Manson will identify some of the unfinished business of Vatican II, provide an overview of Johnson’s ecofeminist theology, and explore how Johnson's theology can help to galvanize Catholic direct action for climate justice in the coming months and years.

Theology of the Body — Friend or Foe?

If male and female are created in the image and likeness of God, sharing the same meaning of the human body, then what does this say about the Church's current stance on women's ordination? How does the sacramentality of male and female bodies, as stated clearly in the Theology of the Body, challenge the tradition's longstanding assumptions?  What role does the experience of women who feel called and the “sacramental” experience of those receiving ministry from women contribute to such a theological anthropology? Marie-Louise Ternier-Gommers M.T.S., Stephanie Molloy, M.Div., M.Th., and Rev. Adelina Pecchia, M.T.S., D.Min (in progress) will explore how John Paul II and his Theology of the Body could well turn out to be a surprising ally in the women’s ordination question.

Women and Leadership in Early Christianity: What can sociology and archaeology tell us?

Women’s prophetic leadership in early Christianity challenged western cultural norms that marginalized women and the poor.  This presentation uncovers the pioneering roots of that leadership, including recent findings from sociology and archaeology.  While much necessary scholarly ink has been spilled tracking the decline of women’s public leadership in the early church, what is easily overlooked is that Christianity’s rapid expansion is largely due to the domestic networking and evangelizing leadership of women. Christine Schenk, CSJ, MS, M.Div, columnist for the National Catholic Reporter, and founding director of FutureChurch will present her research and analysis of 4th century tombs of Christian women leaders.

Women Deacons are not Women Priests

Women have served the church as deacons throughout its history, sometimes ordained and sometimes not. We know that women have been ordained as deacons. We know that women image Christ. Why has this vocation been closed to women in the West for nearly 800 years? The history of ordained women deacons combined with the church's affirmation that all persons are created in the image and likeness of God give ironclad proof that the church has the power and authority to restore women to this ordained ministry. In this workshop Dr. Phyllis Zagano,  leading expert on the open question of returning women to the ordained diaconate in the Catholic Church, will briefly review the current state of the discussion regarding the restoration of women to the ordained diaconate, allowing for ample questions.

Worshiping in the Onion Fields: A Church of the Undocumented

Four years ago, Chava Redonnet began celebrating weekly Mass with a group of migrant farmworkers in the parking lot in front of their little house, surrounded by onion fields in Rochester, New York. Through deportations, immigration raids, I-9 audits and job losses, court appearances, health issues, deplorable living conditions, and exhausting work (as much as 90 hours a week in planting time), the Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church have found a way to be church together, and bless the world around them. Since 2014 the Church has obtained a farmer’s permission to use a vacant migrant dwelling as a location for Mass. Santiago Herrera, born in Mexico, and has worked in the United States much of his adult life is a member of the church community and is currently a farmworker, planting, tending, harvesting and packing onions, cabbages and beets.

Integrating Catholic Feminist perspectives on new strategies and challenges for women's human rights: A View from Mexico

Allies and Authority

What You Have Done For The Least of Mine: Incorporating Transgender Justice into Catholic Reform Work

This interactive session with Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SL and Bob Shine of New Ways Ministry examines how Catholic reform advocates can ensure transgender concerns are present in our work. This session, open to all, will help navigate concepts and terms related to trans* communities and, through participant discussion, brainstorm about how our work can become more inclusive in both the ends we seek and our means in pursuing church reform overall.