by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
In the Passion narrative, Mary and the women disciples are the heroes.
All of the apostles, except the youngest, John, betray, deny and/or abandon Jesus during his passion and crucifixion.
On Holy Thursday night in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter, James and John fall asleep after Jesus asked them to watch and pray with him. Our Lord is seeking not only their prayerful support, but also encouraging them to fortify themselves spiritually for the impending crisis that will shake the foundation of their world.
It is also the women on Easter morning who come to the tomb to anoint and care for the dead body of Jesus. They are the first of the disciples to discover the empty tomb.
Mary Magdalene is the first to have an encounter with the risen Jesus. Our Lord asks her to go and tell his disciples that he is alive. Women were the first heralds of the Resurrection.
Women continue today to be important leaders that are the heart of our parish communities. Our parishes would collapse, or at the very least be severely crippled, without their talented and dedicated female leaders.
Women comprise half of my Administrative Team at the archdiocese. They not only lead large departments but they are key advisers to me.
Our superintendent of Catholic education, our executive director for stewardship and development, our chief financial officer, our director of accounting, our legal counsel, our human resource director, our adult evangelization director, our communications director, our managing editor of The Leaven, our director for deaf ministry and our pro-life director are all female.
Moreover, in those instances where men are ostensibly in leadership roles, they are supported by remarkable women.
This is certainly true for me. I shudder to think what my life would be like without Dianna Bagby, my executive assistant, Diane Clement, administrative assistant, and Marilyn Baker, who is the executive housekeeper for my residence. I would be lost and much less effective without these amazing women supporting my ministry.
Probably, the most well-known and admired Catholic internationally in the last 50 years was Mother (Saint) Teresa of Calcutta. Within the United States, one could make a good argument for the late Mother Angelica to be dubbed the most influential Catholic. The Eternal Word Television and Radio Network that she founded continues to be a tremendously powerful force for evangelizing, educating and encouraging American Catholics.
Many significant sociological changes not withstanding, women continue to be the heart of the family. The family, of course, is the foundational human institution. Societies, nations, communities and churches depend on strong, healthy families.
This past Saturday (March 24) for the second year, thanks to the faith, zeal, creativity and hard work of four young women, more than 200 women under the age of 35 participated in Given KC. It is a conference designed to help young Catholic women embrace their God-given talents and to live out more fully their feminine genius!
The opportunity to give an invocation and offer some words of support and encouragement at the beginning of the conference actually was a tremendous grace for me, helping to renew my hope for the vibrancy of the future church.
Unfortunately, a misguided secular feminism has spun a narrative that Catholicism is repressive for women and impedes their human flourishing. These are the same voices that praised the sexual revolution as a moment of great liberation for women. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
While watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, I saw several times an advertisement celebrating an important moment in the life of a young couple. The ad was not highlighting an engagement or marriage, but rather a couple moving in together!
Our culture that has normalized cohabitation has experienced marked increases of: 1) single parenting (most often by women); 2) the number of abortions; 3) risk for divorce should they eventually marry; and 4) venereal diseases. All of these consequences and many more have been harmful to women.
Sally Read — a nurse and award-winning poet — in her book, “Night’s Bright Darkness,” chronicles her conversion from atheism and secular feminism to Catholicism. After being led to discover a spiritual home in the Catholic Church, literally the last place on the planet where she ever thought she could feel comfortable, Sally wrote:
“No one ever argued me down from any of my liberal or progressive positions, but the logic of the Christ’s love was penetrating deeper and deeper into my heart. I was aware of being known as I never had been before. He knew me beyond the limits of my life and certainly beyond the limits of my self-knowledge. He knew me as an eternal soul, but also as a physical and sexual being. It astonished me, even then, to think I had ever thought of the church as sexually repressive. In Western post-feminist culture, with its obsession with pornography and extreme sexual acts, normal women, in the eyes of some men, are diminished, certainly boring, almost rendered obsolete. The church made me feel the reverse — fully human, fully a woman; sensual and potent in my very ordinariness.”
This Easter, I wish to express my deep gratitude to all the women of the Archdiocese. Thank you for continuing the tradition of the faithfulness and zeal of Our Lord’s first female disciples. Thank you for your love for Jesus and his church. Thank you for your remarkable capacity to be servant leaders within our church.
May you, like the women on Easter morning, experience the joy, the hope and the love of the risen Lord and be his heralds in the world.