Benedictine sister's witness a turning point in struggle for women's equality in the church

A great woman has gone from our midst. Her name is Christine Vladimiroff, and we who are passionate about church reform owe God profound thanks for the gift of this woman's life.

At age 17, Christine joined the Erie Benedictines because the nuns in her high school "were the most happy and competent women I had ever seen." She finished college and earned a doctorate at the Universidad International in Mexico City. She served as secretary of education for the Cleveland diocese, a college professor, and the executive director of Second Harvest, a national network of food banks, before she was elected prioress of her community in 1998. She died in the arms of her sisters on Sept. 25 after an extended illness.

During her eight-year tenure as head of the Cleveland Catholic school system, Christine was affectionately known around town as the "czarina." Clevelanders quickly discovered she possessed a backbone of tempered steel. This strength served her well when, in March 2001, the Vatican ordered her to "forbid and prohibit" her fellow Benedictine, Joan Chittister, from speaking at a Women's Ordination Worldwide conference in late June in Dublin.

What then transpired would become a turning point in the contemporary struggle for women's equality in the church.

It would also lead to a renewed understanding of the nature of religious obedience, especially among those socialized into the "pay, pray, obey" ethos endemic to Catholicism.

Christine, you see, was not about to grovel.

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Related - Benedictine Sister Christine Vladimiroff dies by Tom Roberts