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18 September 2019

Religious Sisters start cleaning up their own house

On the occasion of the upcoming synod on Amazonia, a clear message comes from religious sisters from across the world: why is there still such resistance to women’s participation when it comes to leadership and decision making in our Church? Why are sisters, who have dedicated their whole lives to prayer and devotion to the work of the Church, treated as guests in their own house?

At the last two synods, the right to vote has been extended to non-ordained Catholics. This means the priesthood is no longer a criterion anymore – but it seems gender still is. Religious brothers were invited to vote at the 2015 and 2018 synods in Rome, and their sisters, equal in canonical status, were left aside. But women religious have had enough.

On October 1st, a press conference organised by Voices of Faith, will gather Catholics involved in this discussion; religious sisters who speak publicly for the cause and representatives of the lay organisations that initiated the #votesforcatholicwomen petition, signed by over 9600 people calling for Pope Francis to give women religious the right to vote at the Synod on Youth. Benedictine Sisters of Fahr Monastery in Switzerland, with their Prioress Irene Gassmann, will be travelling by bus to Rome to show their support. A photo of these sisters ranging in age from 86 to 53 went viral last year when they participated in the petition.

On October 3rd at the Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Voices of Faith will gather women religious from around the world to discuss the role of sisters in shaping the Church of tomorrow. Speakers include Sr. Chris Burke (Australia), Sr. Simone Campbell (USA), Sr. Anne B. Faye (Senegal), Sr. Teresa Forcades (Spain), Sr. Madeleine Fredell (Sweden), Prioress Irene Gassmann (Switzerland), Bishop Felix Gmür (Switzerland), Sr. Mary J. Mananzan (Philippines), Sr. Shalini Mulackal (India) and Doris Wagner (Germany).  

“Enlivened by the Spirit, we call for our Synodal Sister representatives to have a vote at the Synod on Amazonia, as do the representatives of the Brothers,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, who will be opening the Voices of Faith event. “If the body of Christ is to be whole, our Church leadership needs to accept the gifts of the Spirit including the full participation of women. Having Sisters vote at the Synod is one step in that direction. The time is now.”

For the first time we have Bishop Felix Gmür, Bishop of Basel and current President of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference as a speaker and will be discussing the Swiss Church’s steps towards equality for women alongside Prioress Irene Gassmann OSB of Fahr Monastery. “It is urgent that we develop a society that is aware of the same dignity and interdependence of people and cultures. This also applies to the role of women in the church. I continue to do all I can to achieve this.” said Bishop Gmür.

The collective global activity of these sisters shows that the discussion on equality in the Church is needed today more than ever and has become a serious issue as a result of the profound experience of prayer and contemplation of the Gospel message.

Sr. Petra Müller of Fahr Monastery, one of the oldest and most outspoken sisters travelling by bus to Rome, calls for women to encourage each other in word and prayer. “Women should be perceived and taken seriously at the Synod and thus be given the right to vote. Women have a potential which is absent from men, our church urgently needs this potential for a new vitality.” 

If the Church continues to ignore the voices of capable, faithful and committed Catholic women to be an equal part of decision making in the hierarchy, what hope is there left for the future of the Catholic Church?

About Voices of Faith

Voices of Faith is a global initiative, which for seven years has worked for a Church that values its women as leaders, experts and theologians, with the right to sit at the table and work alongside the hierarchy to make decisions that affect us all.

Event Details:

October 1st:
Press Conference on voting rights for Catholic women.
La Stampa Estera, Rome, 5:00pm

Speakers include: 

1. Prioress Irene Gassmann PSB, Prioress of Fahr Monastery
2. Sister Petra Müller OSB, Fahr Monastery
3. Sister Fidelis Schmid OSB, Fahr Monastery
4. Sister Simone Campbell SSS, Founder Network, Nuns on the Bus
5. Zuzanna Flisowska, General Manager, Voices of Faith
6. Deborah Rose Milavec, Co-Director, Future Church
7. Kate McElwee, Executive Director, Women’s Ordination Conference

More information: https://voicesoffaith.org/fahr-monastery-sisters-1 

October 3rd:
And You Sister…What Do You Say? Voices of Faith Event 

Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Rome, 11:30am 

Speakers include: 

1. Sister Chris Burke IBVM
2. Sister Simone Campbell SSS
3. Sister Anne Béatrice Faye CIC
4. Sister Madeleine Fredell OP
5. Sister Teresa Forcades OSB
6. Prioress Irene Gassmann OSB
7. Bishop Felix Gmür
8. Sister Mary John Mananzan OSB
9. Sister Shalini Mulackal PBVM
10. Doris Wagner

More information: https://voicesoffaith.org/os-october-2019-event


Media passes for event limited due to seating capacity. Please RSVP at your earliest convenience to our Communications Director, Stephanie Lorenzo.