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Martha Jane Chisley Tolton

While the life of pioneering priest Father Augustus Tolton is rightly being elevated such that he is on track for sainthood, his brave, stalwart mother, Martha Jane Chisley has received little recognition. A courageous and tenacious woman, she saved her son and her other two children from a life of slavery and fought her whole life to create the opportunities Augustus needed to pursue his vocation as the first recognized African American priest. She did it for him. She did it for the people in her community.

To learn more, download our resource packet. Women Witnesses for Racial Justice resource packets include:

  • Biography/Essay
  • Questions for reflection and conversation
  • Original art by Chloe Becker
  • Prayer Service
  • Suggestions for taking action in your community


Artist: Chloe Becker. Comissioned by FutureChurch.  

FutureChurch Welcomes Working Document as a Hopeful Foundation for Progress at October Assembly

For Immediate Release

Russ Petrus, Co-Director of FutureChurch,
Deborah Rose, Co-Director of FutureChurch, 1.513.673.1401,

FutureChurch is hopeful that the Instrumentum Laboris – or working document – which will guide conversations at the October 2023 Assembly of the Synod on Communion, Participation, and Mission lays a strong foundation for achieving real progress on much needed reforms in the Church.

Unlike working documents for previous synods, this new document signals a break from the old formula, where consultation with the People of God was overshadowed by hierarchical concerns, and instead poses three overarching questions to be discerned by assembly members – including lay women and men who will have full voting privileges for the first time:

  1. Communion: How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?
  2. Mission: How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?
  3. Participation: What processes, structures and institutions in a missionary synodal church?

“Perhaps the most unique and inspired aspect of this working document is the format itself,” said Russ Petrus, Co-Director for FutureChurch. “By posing questions for synodal discernment, the document continues to invite the wisdom and insight of the People of God. And, as we have seen in previous phases of the synod, when the People of God are at the table, their Spirited calls for reform ring loud and clear.”

Each question is expanded upon by worksheets that will guide working groups in further reflection and consideration of concrete actions. Urgently needed conversations about women and the Church are woven throughout and the question of ordaining women deacons is explicitly raised. As is ordaining male priests who are married. FutureChurch has long advocated for both.

“It is a sign of hope that the Instrumentum Laboris reflects the wider call within the Church for women’s ordination to the diaconate and for the ordination of married men to the priesthood, but it is troubling to find that women’s ordination to the priesthood has not found a place in this working document,” said Deborah Rose, Co-Director for FutureChurch.  “The Continental Discernment Document specifically included it as an issue of concern for Catholics worldwide and, given the diversity of opinions on the topic and the fact that our discernment has historically been constrained by male clerics, it is just the kind of issue deserving of synodal conversation.”

Proper formation for synodality and reevaluating institutions and structures that overly privilege authority and hierarchy are also addressed in the worksheets on participation. “Clericalism and Canon Law are real barriers to true synodality,” said FutureChurch Board Chair, Todd Ray. “It gives us great hope that the working document recognizes this reality and seeks to correct it by asking for input on both seminary education and reform to Canon Law.”

FutureChurch has been working in solidarity with Catholics around the country and globe to ensure that the voices of those who have been ignored, scorned, and excluded are included in every phase of the synodal process: from our report, “In Our Own Words” to our most recent letters to bishops and other members of the synod committees urging them to include a diverse group of Catholics as members of the October 2023 Synod Assembly. We invite all to join us on Wednesdays, June 28th, July 5th, and July 12th at 7pm ET for “Synod Watch: Unpacking the Working Document” as guest experts and activists join FutureChurch to help us gain a better understanding of the working document. Visit to learn more about our Synod work and to sign up for these sessions.


The Women of Acts with Teresa Calpino, Ph.D.

Teresa Calpino, Ph.D. joins FutureChurch for this “Women Erased” series presentation, discussing the women who led and ministered in The Acts of the Apostles, with a particular focus on Tabitha (Acts 9:36–42) and Lydia (Acts 16:11–15). The women in Acts of the Apostles have routinely been ignored by scholars or mentioned only in praising the male apostle associated with their story. As a result, these important characters have been obscured.

Dr. Calpino received her BS from Northwestern University in Communications. She received an MA in Biblical Languages and Literature in 2005 and her PhD in New Testament and Early Christianity in 2012 both from Loyola University Chicago. Her interests include Acts of the Apostles, Women and Gender, The Greco-Roman Social Context of early Christian literature, The Church Fathers, and Letter, Inscriptions and Artifacts of the early Christian world.

Dr. Calpino’s book Women, Work and Leadership in Acts was published in 2014 by Mohr-Siebeck. (WUNT II, 361; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014) She has also published articles in Biblical Review and Annali di Storia dell’Esegesi. Her book chapter, “Mary Magdalene in Modern Scholarship,” was published in late 2014 in the scholarly anthology Maria Magdalena. She has also presented numerous papers at conferences on both the local and national level. She is a member of The Society of Biblical Literature, The Chicago Society of Biblical Research and The Catholic Biblical Association. She is currently the chair of the “Teaching the Bible” section for the Midwest Society of Biblical Literature.


Dr. Calpino’s Dissertation: The Lord Opened Her Heart: Women, Work, and Leadership in Acts of the Apostles

Catholic Women Preach wins Catholic Media Book Award

Catholic Women Preach: Raising Voices, Renewing the Church – Year A received 2nd place in the category of Liturgy and honorable mention in the category of Future Church at the 2023 Catholic Media Awards:

Catholic Women Preach is one of the more inspiring collection of homilies available today. Based on the deep spirituality and insights of the various women authors, the homilies are solidly based on the scriptures and offer refreshing and engaging insights for homilists and listeners. The feminine perspective has long been absent in the preached word, and its inclusion in this work offers a long overdue and pastorally necessary resource for the liturgical life of the Church.”

The Making of a Women’s Lectionary

Ashley Wilcox joins FutureChurch for this Women Erased Series presentation, sharing the story behind her best-selling book, The Women’s Lectionary: Preaching the Women of the Bible throughout the Year.  

Ashley Wilcox is a graduate of Candler School of Theology, The School of the Spirit, and Willamette University College of Law. Before going to seminary, Ashley worked for appellate courts in Washington and Oregon. Her writing has been published in Working PreacherFriends JournalQuaker Religious ThoughtWestern FriendFidelia, and various Quaker anthologies. She founded Church of Mary Magdalene and Preaching with Confidence, an online preaching class and preaching coaching.

Ashley preaches, speaks, and teaches across the U.S. and internationally. She has been teaching and leading workshops on women and spirituality for more than a decade. She also taught preaching to Candler School of Theology students for five years.

Helpful Links:

More Lectionaries:

Black Catholic Women in 18th and 19th Century New Orleans

Professor Emily Clark joins FutureChurch to discuss the lives of Black Catholic women such as Venerable Henriette Delille in the context of late 18th century and early 19th century life in New Orleans, offering background on the many unique features of life in New Orleans. The region’s development under French and Spanish rule brought the enslavement and transport of African people, Code Noir, color labels such as quadroon, the creolization of culture and religion. Dr. Clark will explore the history and discuss how free women of color such as Henriette Delille, Juliette Gaudin, and Josephine Charles were able to found the second successful religious community of Black Catholic women, the Sisters of the Holy Family, in the United States.

Emily Clark is the Clement Chambers Benenson Professor in American Colonial History at Tulane University. She specializes in early American and Atlantic world history, with a focus on the French Atlantic. Her research interests include slavery, race, gender, religion and historical memory.

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FutureChurch Summary and Review of the Final North American Synod Document

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) issued the North American Final Document for the Continental Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission on April 12th. Along with the contributions of the six other Continental Assemblies, this document, will form the basis of the Instrumentum Laboris to be released by the General Secretariat of the Synod in June 2023 which will guide the Synod Assembly in Rome in October 2023/2024.

FutureChurch co-director, Deborah Rose, shares information about how the document came together, synthesizes and reviews the important points in the document, and discusses what’s next in the synod process.

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