FutureChurch Synod Campaign Makes History

Catholic bishops meeting at the synod on the Word invited the greatest number of women ever to participate as auditors and biblical experts. Also, for the first time in history, the synod “recognized and encouraged the ministry of women of the Word,” and discussed the need to restore women’s stories to the Lectionary.

Two female synod experts assured us that, had it not been for FutureChurch’s work, they would not have been one of six women experts and 19 women auditors invited to the International Synod on the Word held in Rome this past October. Likewise, it is not an exaggeration to say that synod discussion of women in the Lectionary and a proposition addressing “Women and the Ministry of the Word” would never have occurred were it not for the enthusiastic support of people all over the world who joined FutureChurch in asking for these specialized conversations to take place.

In the two years leading up to the synod, nearly 20,000 paper and electronic postcards were sent to church leaders and synod delegates. These proved instrumental in assuring that FutureChurch requests asking for the inclusion of female experts, greater attention to Jesus’ and St. Paul’s inclusive practice, expanded preaching opportunities for women and the restoration of deleted biblical women to the Lectionary would be discussed at the synod.

Also influential were the packets of materials containing lists of women biblical scholars and extensive documentation of “amnesia in the Lectionary” about biblical women leaders sent to 25 English-speaking bishop delegates from the U.S. the U.K., Ireland, Australia, the Philippines, Canada, India and Africa. This comprehensive resource seeded the discussion of the hidden women of the Lectionary that we were told took place in “a number” of the twelve small groups where the main work of the synod was accomplished. Packets were also sent to Archbishop Nicola Eterovic, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal William J. Levada at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who was one of the synod presiders, and Pope Benedict XVI.

In early September, FutureChurch received a courteous letter from Archbishop Eterovic acknowledging our work: In preparation, the General Secretariat makes every attempt to ensure that every voice is heard-men and women-so that everyone can make substantial contribution, in their own way, in the synod process … Many responses to the Lineamenta, including those of women, have been received, studied and incorporated in the Instrumentum Laboris.

FutureChurch board members Ms. Rita Houlihan and Fr. Gerry Bechard meet Sr. Sara Butler and Sr. Chris Schenk at the Synod on the Word.
FutureChurch board members Ms. Rita Houlihan and Fr. Gerry Bechard meet Sr. Sara Butler (right) and Sr. Chris Schenk (not pictured) at the Synod on the Word.

Sr. Chris Schenk and FutureChurch board members Fr. Gerry Bechard and Ms. Rita Houlihan met or communicated personally via telephone and email with six synod bishop-delegates, including Ireland’s Cardinal Sean Brady. While in Rome, FutureChurch leadership also met three female synod “experts” who thanked us for making their synod presence possible. Schenk also gave substantive interviews to John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, Vatican Radio, Robert Mickens of The Tablet, Religion News Service and Spanish and Italian print media.

Daily reports from Rome during the month of October were emailed to various FutureChurch lists and posted on the website. We were gratified to discover than at least 300 people per day opened the email containing the reports.

To read the daily reports and the actual text of the propositions relating to the synod campaign, as well as FutureChurch media responses visit www.futurechurch.org.

What’s next?

Sr. Chris Schenk plans extensive follow-up with contacts made in Rome to track outcomes of the propositions issued by the bishops.

In the meantime, FutureChurch has produced two new resources, Holy Women of Holy Week and Women in the Ministry of Paul. They are designed to help parishes learn about and celebrate women leaders in Paul’s ministry during this “Year of St. Paul,” and to increase awareness of Jesus faithful women disciples who accompanied him through death, burial and Resurrection. (See page 4).

On June 13, 2009, a daylong conference on Women and the Word: Bridging the Gap will be held at Mt. St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles. Featured speakers include Dr. Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and a panel of pastoral ministers.


Focus on FutureChurch

Fall 2008


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