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Catherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena, a medieval saint and Doctor of the Church, was first and foremost an authentic human being who responded to the needs of the church and the world around her. A lay third order Dominican, she lived in her own home amid an atmosphere of exuberant lay spiritual­ity; of emotional preaching by the newly founded mendi­cants, the Franciscans and Dominicans; at a time when love and service of the neighbor were newly emerging as Christian values. Her Letters, her re­corded Prayers, and her major testament, The Dialogue, reveal a woman motivated by a passionate relationship with God, pursuing ever deepening self­knowledge.

Essay Catherine M. Mesade; Prayer by Laurel Jurecki



Angela Merici

Angela Merici lived in Renaissance Italy, a turbulent time of civil wars and widespread corruption in so­cial, political and religious institutions. The role of women was subordinate; their choice was either marriage or the cloister, controlled by “a husband or a wall.” Angela sought neither. She envisioned a new, independent expres­sion of religious commit­ment for women. Her Com­pany of Saint Ursula granted women the freedom to live consecrated lives while liv­ing in the world, bound only by the love of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Essay and prayer by Dorothy Janusko Valerian



Therese of Lisieux

Therese of Lisieux called herself a “little flower.” Her flowery language and her child-like images have sometimes invited misunderstanding. She was an enormously strong woman and a profound interpreter of the contemplative life. Without the aid of male spiritual directors or copious male­authored theologies, trusting in her own experi­ence, she found her wholeness in Jesus and in her single-hearted abandon to Love, revealed the one thing necessary to know, God’s unconditional love for us. Paradoxically, she has managed “all the vo­cations.” Though she relinquished the vocation of the priest out of humility, she sounds as though she had the power to become one. She never left home, but is the patron saint of the missions, a doctor of the church, an apostle who travels the world, a prophet who speaks God’s word, a war­rior who fought against the unpardonable sin, and a saint whose death was as painful as any martyr­dom she imagined. If the “spirit groans within us,” it sang within her.

Essay by Mary Jo Weaver and Prayer by Laurel Jurecki



Thea Bowman

From the beginning of her teaching career until the end of her public minisny, mu­sic was the substance of Thea Bowman’s wit­ness to the world. Although her formal re­search for her doctoral degree dealt with Ren­aissance literature and philosophy, her endur­ing contribution to scholarship within the Ro­man Catholic Church and within the fields of Africana Studies, is her reliance on the wisdom and redemptive power of Black Sacred Song to teach, inspire, correct, challenge and transform all who would seek to “walk together” on the journey from here to heaven. At the time of her last great public perform­ance – at the 1989 summer meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops – she began her remarks by singing, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” That song was her prophetic challenge to the rhetorical question, “what does it mean to be Black and Catholic?”

Essay and Prayer by Joseph A. Brown, SJ



The Beguines

The witness of the Beguines of Northeastern Europe is the wit­ness of a move­ment of women. In fact some scholars have called the growth of Beguine spirituality, which began in the 12th century and retains some vestiges to this day, “the first women’s movement.” Individual Beguines such as Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechtilde of Magdeburg and Marie D’Oignies gained promi­nence for their scholar­ship, spiritual leadership and ecstatic experiences of God. More striking perhaps is the fact that the Beguine movement provided a way for many European Chris­tian women, poor and wealthy alike, to re­spond to the signs of their times and to their own spiritual needs and calling. They did so in a way that both shaped and threatened the structures that governed women’s religious lives. It was a movement that reflected the growing need among lay people for lives of spiritual meaning and religious action, as well as self-determination. In its far-reaching in­fluence and its struggle can be seen the move­ment of God’s own Spirit.

Essay and Prayer by Barbara Ballenger



Teresa of Avila

Teresa embodies the passionate longing for fullness of life in God. She was a woman, dauntless in the pursuit of Truth, willing to
have her life turned upside-down by the God of her longing. She discovered a totally mutual God who taught her to see reality from a new perspective. As a result, she fired human souls to reach for God in new ways and five hundred years later, she continues to do so through her writing and counsel. Today, Teresa mentors and challenges us to live with depth, with passion, and with purpose so that every moment can be experienced in the center of the soul, God’s s own dwelling.

Essay by Martha Marie Campbell and Prayer by Laurel Jurecki



Sor Juana

This woman of the seventeenth century left the world a comprehensive library of plays, poetry, prose, works of art, ideas and accomplishments. She has been called “the first feminist of the Americas.” Her poem, Satira Filosofica,
(Philosophical Satire) is an excellent example of Sor Juana’s feminist views.

Essay and prayer by Sr. Alicia Alvarado, OP




In four of the six New Testament references to them, Prisca is named before her husband Aquila, which is highly unusual. Since women were rarely named at all in ancient texts let alone named before their husbands, the only possible explanation is that Prisca was thought to be the more important of the two. Since she is identified as a tentmaker who worked manu­ally side by side with her husband (Acts 18:3), she does not meet secular criteria for prominence hav­ing neither greater social status nor independent wealth. The only remaining explanation is that she was considered more important because of her work in the Church. To quote Jerome Murphy O’Connor: “The public acknowledgement of Prisca’s promi­nent role in the church, implicit in the reversal of the secular form of naming the husband before his wife underlines how radically egalitarian the Pauline communities were.”

Essay and prayer by Christine Schenk, CSJ