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Mary of Magdala Celebration Planning Guides

In 1997, FutureChurch launched an international campaign to restore St. Mary of Magdala to her rightful place as the apostle to the apostles, asking supporters to sponsor special celebrations on or around July 22 at which a biblical expert would trace Mary’s unparalleled fidelity in accompanying Jesus through crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. This would be followed by a prayer service at which a woman would preside, preach and encourage attendees to reflect on their own encounters with, and witness to, the risen Christ.

Annual celebrations of St. Mary of Magdala exploded after that, going from 23 that first year, to 150 the following year to between 250 to 400 celebrations worldwide in each year since. Every summer, thousands of women and men help correct an egregious injustice done to a great woman leader in our church.

2023: Rethinking Women’s Participation | Stories of Synodality Then and Now

This year as we celebrate the Feast of St. Mary of Magdala, we have been given an invitation by the Church present to return to a very ancient tradition of Church past. Pope Francis has invited us to live as a Synodal Church. Much has been made, and indeed much ignored, regarding the Synod on Synodality. However, this Synod will without a doubt be one of the greatest legacies of Francis’ papacy. Because Synodality is the only path forward for the Catholic Church in the 21st century. 

Jesus himself practiced Synodality and sought to teach it to his disciples – both women and men – through example: teaching through parables; seeking out those on the periphery, whose voices had been ignored or silenced; placing each person he encountered on his path at the center of his ministry, listening to their needs, hopes, and dreams.

Perhaps the greatest ‘miss’ in the history of Synodality was that of the courageous witness of Mary Magdalene, who was commissioned by Jesus to “go and tell” the good news. And we live with the wound of that ‘miss’ in our Church to this day.

Through this prayer service, as we recover her witness and honor the impact it continues to make, we gather our prayers together for all women who continue to be ignored, discredited, and disbelieved. The voices of Catholics around the world calling for greater equality for women in the Church in “Enlarge the Space of Our Tent” will guide us through our prayer service as we highlight women’s synodal encounters with Jesus, then, and the synodal encounters in the heartfelt sharing of the People of God, now.

We are grateful to Kelly Meraw, who developed and compiled this year’s prayer service. Kelly is Director of Liturgy, Music, and Pastoral Care for St. John – St. Paul Collaborative in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She is also the primary facilitator for her Collaborative’s Committee for Synodality.

We invite you to host your own celebration, adapting this prayer service as necessary. FutureChurch has an extensive library of resources to help – including this year’s celebration guide, which provides everything you need – prayers, readings, and music suggestions – to plan your own celebration.

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