Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — It was arguably the most notable request of a pope in modern times. In 1979, Mercy Sr. Theresa Kane, serving as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, after consulting with a few friends, decided to ask Pope John Paul II, during his first visit to the United States, to open all church ministries to women.
The story of that request is etched in the psyches of reform-minded Catholics around the globe. It was not only the request itself, but also Kane’s direct, simple, respectful, confident demeanor that captured widespread attention. No person to that moment had ever seemed an equal to a pope. Catholic perceptions changed in the Washington D.C. basilica that day.