A dozen women from around the world shared compelling and sometimes harrowing stories of their struggles for peace, education and equality during a Vatican event Tuesday, with some calling for better representation and women's leadership at the highest levels of the Catholic church.
The event, organized as an opportunity for women to share their voices from the center of the church bureaucracy on International Women's Day, was careful however to skirt the issue of women's governance in the Catholic community, choosing to speak instead of women's capabilities to share leadership.
In fact, one of the most prominent speakers at the third annual Voices of Faith event said that the focus of conversations about women's roles in the church around questions of ordination is "unfortunate" because it causes suspicion when any issue relating to women is raised in church circles.
Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said that when women speak there is a lingering question: "Is this a slippery slope so that everything women want is eventually to the priesthood?"
"I think because so much of the conversation, particularly the dominant conversations and the loudest conversations, have focused on women's ordination — which is off the table — [that] whenever women plead, or speak, or recommend, or propose there's this skepticism or suspicion," said Woo. "Is this conversation leading to ordination?"
"I think that is unfortunate because along the way we fail to hear . . . the voices of the mothers, of the single mothers, of the lay pastoral associates," she said.
Woo was one of a dozen women and several men taking part in Tuesday's event, put together as an opportunity for women to share their stories of faith on the yearly day focused on them.