Holy Cross Sr. Maldeva Wolff established the first graduate theology school for women at Saint Mary's College while she was president there in 1943.
In 1985, to honor Wolff, to spread her spirit, and to provide a forum for women's concerns, Saint Mary's initiated the Madeleva Lecture Series, an annual event that draws a prominent woman theologian to the campus to speak. In April 2000 the first 15 lecturers assembled at Saint Mary's and over three days drew up a 300-word manifesto, a "Charter for Women of Faith in the New Millennium."
Officially the document was called "The Madeleva Manifesto: A Message of Hope and Courage" and it invited women everywhere to imagine different church structures and called upon them to reject those which excluded women from full participation and ownership.
Charter for Women of Faith in the New Millennium:
To women in ministry and theological studies we say: Re-imagine what it means to be the whole body of Christ. The way things are now is not the design of God.
To young women looking for models of prophetic leadership we say: Walk with us as we seek to follow the way of Jesus Christ, who inspires our hope and guides our concerns. The Spirit calls us to a gospel feminism that respects the human dignity of all, and who inspires us to be faithful disciples, to stay in the struggle to overcome oppression of all kinds whether based on gender, sexual orientation, race or class.
To women who are tempted by the demons of despair and indifference we say: Re-imagine what it means to be a full human being made in the image of God, and to live and speak this truth in our daily lives.
To women who suffer the cost of discipleship we say: You are not alone. We remember those who have gone before us, who first held up for us the pearl of great price, the richness of Catholic thought and spirituality. We give thanks to those who continue to mentor us.
To the young women of the church we say: Carry forward the cause of gospel feminism. We will be with you along the way, sharing what we have learned about the freedom, joy and power of contemplative intimacy with God. We ask you to join us in a commitment to far-reaching transformation of church and society in non-violent ways.
We deplore and hold ourselves morally bound to protest and resist in church and society all actions, customs, laws and structures that treat women or men as less than fully human. We pledge ourselves to carry forth the heritage of biblical justice that mandates that all persons share in right relationship with each other, with the cosmos and with the Creator.
We hold ourselves responsible to look for the holy in unexpected places and persons, and pledge ourselves to continued energetic dialogue about issues of freedom and responsibility for women. We invite others of all traditions to join us in imagining the great shalom of God.
To read more about the life and lifework of Holy Cross Sr. Madeleva Wolff, who established the first graduate theology school for women at Saint Mary's College while she was president there in 1943, see Sr. Madeleva Wolff forever changed the face of Catholic theology by Thomas C. Fox
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