Skip to main content

Media Type: PDF

A post with a downloadable PDF

Mary of Nazareth

Feminist thinkers have long said that unconscious sexism in doctrinal development led to an over-idealization of the concept of woman in the abstract at the expense of dealing with flesh and blood women. Ann Carr believes that ”the theology of Mary and her image in the Church may ulti­mately tell us more about the Church than about Mary.” Thus it has been possible to glorify Mary as ever virgin/ ever-Mother and hold her up as an impossible feminine model, while at the same time ignoring the oppression of real women.

Essay and prayer by Christine Schenk, CSJ



Julian of Norwich

The significance of Julian’s struggle to reconcile the truth of her experience with official Church teaching ought not to be lost on contemporary women. Julian provides a courageous example of one who, based upon her own experience of God, dared to question Church teaching, out of a spirit of love and loyalty to that Church, in a day when such questioning could be construed as heresy punishable by death. In articulating her theology, she appropriates Church tradition selectively, emphasizing those points of doctrine compatible with her own religious experience. Her courage to do this did not stem from any pretense of greater learning on her own part, but from the fact that she trusted absolutely, after a good amount of questioning and discernment, in her revelations as indica­tive of God’s will for herself and the whole Church.

Essay and prayer by Joan M. Nuth, Ph.D.




Sister, deacon, benefactor. Missionary, evangelist, fund-raiser. There can be no doubt about Phoebe’s leadership in the church. She provided generously for the needs of her community at Cenchreae. She used her personal and material resources to create space for the Body of Christ to meet, to be fed, and to grow.

Essay and Prayer by Claire Noonan



Perpetua and Felicity

One of the most precious documents of early Christian history is The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity, an early third-century account of the martyrdom of two women and three men in the arena at Carthage in 203 CE. This document is invaluable because it contains the actual diary kept by Perpetua while she was imprisoned awaiting her death. Although it is framed by the comments of an editor, scholars universally accept the authenticity of Perpetua’s account as the earliest piece of writing by a known woman in Christian history. It grants a rare glimpse into what a woman thought about the meaning of the Christian faith, free from the gloss of male commentary.

Essay by Joan Nuth and Prayer by Christine Schenk, CSJ



Penny Lernoux

Penny Lernoux did not set out to right wrongs. She was simply a journalist, doing her job to record the times accurately, honestly. As it turned out, the “times” converted her, called out to her, and she could not ignore what she saw and heard.

For 27 years, Penny lived this commitment, reporting on political and economic conditions in Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, and throughout Central America. She sent her stories back to the United States, writing of corruption and violence, torture and oppression. It was not a pretty world. Those she visited were filthy from poverty and gaunt from hunger. Yet she found beauty in the faces of the poor, saw how they imaged Christ perhaps more than anyone she had met. And she knew their stories must be told, particularly to the wealthy and powerful of North America. A change must come, and she did her best to bring it about.

Essay and prayer by Tara K. Dix



Our Lady of Guadalupe

Wherever there are crucified peoples and pharaohs standing on the necks of the oppressed, there will be a need to hear the significant message of Guadalupe. From the midst of the poor comes our call to conversion and faith. To believe in Guadalupe is to believe in the poor and the God who stands among them. The Guadalupe message then and now calls for response: a response of faith, conversion, and participatory transformation.

Essay and prayer by Jeanette Rodriguez, Ph.D.



Mary Ward

In 1631 the Vatican Inquisition called her “a heretic, a schismatic, a rebel against holy Church” and had her thrown into prison. In 1951, some 320 year later, Pope Pius XII called her “that incomparable woman given…to the Church in one of the darkest, most blood­stained periods of history.” Her name, Mary Ward, is not widely recognized in the modern world. But it ought to be. She might well be the model and patron saint of every woman or man who dares in good faith to dissent on particular declarations of official Church policy.  Ward’s dissent was deliberate, quite public and increasingly controversial for more than 21 years. It was also extraordinarily effective.

Essay by Robert McClory and prayer by Christine Schenk, CSJ



Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was not only young and female, she was also a peasant and illiterate. Still, none of these “limitations” ever stopped her from following her call, as crazy as it might have seemed to the rest of the world. In fact, she doggedly pursued it as if her eternal life depended on it. She has been described as strong­-willed and purposeful, bordering on stubborn. Those qualities are highly prized by independent young women today, and the fact that they are held up in a young woman from our history is encouraging.

Essays and prayer by Heidi Schlumpf