Women Witnesses Program Draws 150
A group of Cleveland-area women spent a year dreaming about and preparing for an event that would celebrate inspiring foremothers of faith whose qualities speak to contemporary women about our own call and giftedness to witness to the reign of God in our time. They were inspired by the original Celebrating Women Witnesses packet. The occasion was also the perfect opportunity to launch the new More! Celebrating Women Witnesses developed by FutureChurch in partnership with Call to Action.
Artist Debra Wullger designed seven silk banners of God in feminine imagery authoring the seven days of creation.
Saturday, March 1, 2003 brought over 150 women (and a few men!) from the northeast Ohio region and from as far as Columbus, Rochester, Youngstown and even Missouri, to the Church of the Resurrection in the Cleveland suburb of Solon for a day of celebrating women witnesses from our Catholic faith tradition, from other faith traditions, and the witness of our own mothers, grandmothers and forebears.
Parishioner Kathy Rinehart began the day with a prayer meditation remembering our ancestors, those women who were our mothers, our mentors or who were perhaps unknown to us, but had a dream or vision of love and life that was passed on to each.
Keynote speaker Miriam Therese Winter addressed “Women as Mystics and Prophets.” Bringing to life the female characters often overlooked in the passion narratives, MT invited the group to “take along one of those women witnesses” on our Lenten journey this year.
The day included small breakout sessions facilitated by local experts who each shared insights about one particular woman witness. Artist and Ursuline Sister of Cleveland Kathleen Burke spoke to her group about Hildegard of Bingen. John Carroll University professor and author Doris Donnelly spoke about Catherine of Siena. FutureChurch executive director Christine Schenk spoke about Prisca and other women leaders in the early Christian communities. Educator Miriam Robinson was joined by Joan Southgate, an activist and grass roots organizer who walked over 300 miles of the Ohio Underground Railroad in 2002. Together they spoke about the legacy of Sojourner Truth. Each small group created a
collaborative response to the presentation which was shared during the closing prayer.
The “Prisca” group redesigned the Pauline baptismal hymn: “You are no longer Jew or Greek, Slave or Free, Woman or Man, but all are one in Christ Jesus” to speak more directly in our day: “You are no longer Christian or Muslim, Poor or Rich, Woman or Man...but you are all One in Christ Jesus.” The Sojourner Truth group closed with a poem: I am a black woman, the music of my song some sweet arpeggio of tears is written in a minor key and I can be heard humming in the night; Can be heard humming in the night I am a black woman tall as a cypress strong beyond all definition still defying place and time and circumstance assailed
impervious indestructible; Look on me and be Renewed.
Artist Debra Wuliger contributed a series of seven silk banners to the environment. Titled “Sophia Sings,” each panel depicts God in feminine imagery authoring the seven days of
Participants expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to hear about positive role models, to see themselves in the image and likeness of God, and to imagine a future where both women and men bear equal authority for witnessing the Good News. More days of celebrating women witnesses are sure to follow this one.
Ed note: A sequel to the original Celebrating Women Witnesses is now available. It includes essays and prayer services about, Brigid of Kildare, Hildegard of Bingen, Religious Women Martyrs of El Salvador, Phoebe, Perpetua and Felicity, Mary Ward, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Henriette Delille, Penny Lernoux, Joan of Arc, Edith Stein and a new category: Anonymous women.