Synodality and women: Discussion and Discernment with Dr. Phyllis Zagano

Join Dr. Phyllis Zagano as she talks about her latest book, Just Church: Catholic Social Teaching, Synodality, and Women.

She writes, “Even though synodality is the buzzword of the day, the fact remains that members of the hierarchy are, or at least consider themselves, insulated from the opinions about Church from those members on the periphery—and the people most cut out of the conversation at the highest level are women. Perhaps not the women newly named to positions in the Roman Curia, nor the women chancellors, canon lawyers, or other professionals in diocesan chanceries, nor even the women theologians, journalists, and activists. However, these all are liable to be excluded.”


She further comments, “It is no secret that the tensions both inside and outside Vatican walls and chanceries around the world find two sides to the Catholic story—there is a split between those who follow the lead of Pope Francis and those who remain attached to Tridentine liturgies; between those who accept and those who do not accept the findings, the teachings, of the Second Vatican Council. Can these two sides be reconciled? Catholic Social Teaching is specific in its tenets, as is the concept of synodality as recovered by Vatican II. Where does the confluence of these two rivers of Church teaching and thought leave women? Does it include or exclude women, either historically or in the present? Women represent the largest cadre of the periphery that Francis calls the center. What entrée does the periphery have to decision-making? How can Catholic Social Teaching and the concept of synodality combine to bring justice to women in the Church?”


Join us as we learn more about the impact of synodality on the lives of women in the Catholic Church based on Dr. Zagano’s latest book, “Just Church: Catholic Social Teaching, Synodality, and Women.”


Dr. Zagano is Senior Research Associate-in-Residence and Adjunct Professor of Religion at Hofstra University. She joined Hofstra University in 2002. Her courses have included “Mysticism and the Spiritual Quest,” “Life, Death, and Immortality,” and “History of Irish Spirituality.”

Dr. Zagano holds a B.A. from Marymount College, Tarrytown, NY, the Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and three master’s degrees, in communications (Boston University), literature (Long Island University), and theology (St. John’s University).

Dr. Zagano is the author or editor of twenty-five books in religious studies, including Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church (Crossroad, 2000), winner of Catholic Press Association and College Theology Society Annual Book Awards, Women & Catholicism: Gender, Communion, and Authority (Macmillan, 2012), (Catholic Press Association Book Award) and Women: Icons of Christ (Paulist 2020) (Catholic Media Association Book Award).

Dr. Zagano’s recent books include Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (with Gary Macy and William T. Ditewig) (Paulist Press, 2011), Women in Ministry: Emerging Questions on the Diaconate (Paulist Press, 2012), Mysticism and the Spiritual Quest (Paulist Press, 2013), Ordination of Women to the Diaconate in the Eastern Churches (translations of essays by Cipriano Vagaggini) (Liturgical Press, 2013.), Women Deacons? Essays with Answers (Liturgical Press, 2016), and Women Religious, Women Deacons: Questions and Answers (Paulist Press, 2022).

Her book for pre-teens, Elizabeth Visits the Abbey (Clear Faith Publishing, 2022) tells the story of a young girl who visits her aunt, an abbess, and learns of the history of women in the Church.

Her book, Just Church: Catholic Social Teaching, Synodality, and Women (Paulist Press) will appear in February 2023.

Her work has been variously translated into Bahasa Indonesian, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, French, German Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish. The Spanish translation of her best-selling book On Prayer: A Letter for My Godchild won a 2004 Catholic Press Association Book Award. She edited the Liturgical Press “Spirituality in History” anthologies: The Dominican Tradition (2006); The Benedictine Tradition (2007); The Ignatian Tradition (2009); and The Franciscan Tradition (2010). The Carmelite Tradition (2011).

Her visiting fellowships and professorships include Fulbright Senior Specialist, Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland (Spring, 2016), religious studies and spirituality; St. Leo University, Tampa, FL (Spring 2010), spirituality and the history of women in the church; Fulbright Fellow, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland (Spring 2009), women in the church; Yale Divinity School (Fall 2005), ecclesiology; Aquinas Chair of Catholic Studies St. Thomas Aquinas College, Sparkill, NY (Spring 2005), spirituality and contemporary Catholicism.

Dr. Zagano is a founding co-chair of the Roman Catholic Studies Group of the American Academy of Religion, and a member of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, the College Theology Society, and the Catholic Theological Society of America. She has held appointments at Fordham and Boston Universities, and worked as a researcher for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Her biographical listings include Who’s Who in America.

Her award-winning column is nationally syndicated by the Religion News Service and runs in the National Catholic Reporter and in other journals around the world. She has published hundreds of articles and reviews in popular and refereed journals, and for five years hosted a monthly talk show on the National Public Radio affiliate station, WBUR-FM. Her papers are collected at the Gannon Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois.

In 2012, she received the Catherine of Siena Distinguished Layperson Award from Voice of the Faithful. In 2014, she received the Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice from The Paulist Center, Boston.

On August 2, 2016, Pope Francis appointed her to the Papal Commission for the Study of Women in the Diaconate, which convened in Rome November 2016.

From time to time, she appears on television. This clip is from the Hallmark Channel’s “New Morning” program, and was shot at the 2006 Interchurch Center Conference on Women in the Church. Play video.

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May 02 2023


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