Spirited Conversations Interview: “Listen Up, Pope Francis: Catholic Women Speak”

Listen up, Pope Francis: Catholic Women Speak

What could be a watershed event in the Catholic church is happening in October. Just after Pope Francis leaves the U.S., where he’ll be hosting the World Meeting of Families, he’s convening in Rome what’s called a Synod on the Family. But women–key members of families–won’t be included in a significant way in the Synod.  An anthology of essays called Catholic Women Speak has been published in response to this omission. This interview features one of the authors, Rhonda Miska. She writes about her experience as a young single professional woman who’s worked in churches and retreat centers. This interview is part of a project called Spirited Conversations, in which Jennifer Szweda Jordan interviews inspiring people and explores rich places in the Catholic tradition and addresses topical issues.


(Paulist Press, 2015)

(Paulist Press, 2015)

Rhonda Miska (credit: Wendy L Wareham photography)

Rhonda Miska (credit: Wendy L Wareham photography)

Rhonda Miska (rhonda.youngadultcatholics@gmail.com) is a former Jesuit Volunteer (Nicaragua, 2002-2004) and a graduate of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Her past ministries include accompaniment of the Spanish-speaking immigrant community, Muslim-Christian dialogue, social justice education, direct outreach to people who are homeless, congregation-based community organizing, and coordination of a community with adults with intellectual disabilities. She currently serves as Coordinator of Programming/Development at Shalom Spirituality Center in Dubuque, IA. Her writing has appeared in appeared in various print and online publications and she is a contributor to Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Gifts to the Table (Paulist Press) which will be launched in Rome this week.

Bravely Holding Vision: Reflections from the Road to Woman Priesthood

Bravely Holding Vision is a series written by current Young Adult Catholics blog editor, Sarah Holst. Sarah is in the application process to become a Roman Catholic Womanpriest in the Midwest Region. They currently work as an artist in Duluth, MN. Sarah and her partner Nathan will be leading a workshop on Watershed Discipleship at the National Call to Action Conference this November in Milwaulkee.


Sarah holding space on Ash Wednesday on the Abundant Table Farm.  “Remember you are earth and to earth you will return.”

One of the joys in my life right now is, after a long season of transience, settling into a place where my partner and I plan to be for a long, long time. I relished my years of post-college volunteer work, learning and adventure (shout-outs to Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest and Episcopal Service Corps for providing that for folks like me), but am so hungry to have a home, know the cycle of seasons, start a garden that I will tend to year after year, and perhaps most acutely, make and have friends that I won’t shortly be moving away from and saying goodbye to.

It is a heart-wrenching thing to gather one community after another around oneself and then, as you start to take root and grow, to be yanked out and replanted. As difficult (and sad) as it is to start in a new place again, I am reassured by the fact that this is the last time that I will be newly befriending land, community and story. (At least, according to plan. The Holy Spirit dances in spiraling, changeling ways.) I can’t wait to get past the introductions and into the deeper work, the re-learning and unlearning and being reborn with a place again and again, I can’t wait to take steps beyond where before, I have always packed my Subaru and driven away.

A few weeks ago, in the midst of all of this beginning, I was invited by new friends to a backyard concert of Duluth singer-songwriter Rachael Kilgour’s. With a gentle shock, I found myself sitting on a bench within my new watershed, listening to songs about radical self-love and grace. I listened to Rachael sing and watched the trees move in the breeze behind her.  Suddenly, in this backyard set up with folding chairs and drinks and snacks, I felt like I could cry. It felt like Church to me.

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Where I Find Myself: Mass

This is a post by Julia M.  Julia serves as a Campus Minister at a Catholic college in the Midwest. She’s learning what it means to minister to a community while also questioning many of the practices and traditions of the Church; sometimes it’s quite a challenge! She’s especially passionate about feminist theology and story-telling, particularly as they relate to the integration of sexuality and spirituality. 

I used to joke that I was the only one of my 12 young adult cousins that still went to Mass on my own – meaning without parents encouraging or forcing me. But I’m not sure I can say that anymore. I’m losing interest in the Mass. It’s a beautiful practice that can sometimes be so comforting, reminding me of my childhood, my family, and people that I love. Since my first Feminist Theology class, however, I’ve struggled to sit in Mass without analyzing everything I saw and heard. For a while I thought, ‘oh, its no big deal.’ So much of my daily life included thinking about, studying, and contemplating the Creator. Mass wasn’t the only place I could experience spirituality.

NOR-001This last year has changed things. I’m no longer a student of theology. Now, I minister at a small Catholic university in the Midwest. And I’m the only minister there. We have no priest, no sister, no other lay people working in ministry. Just me. Because of this, a part of my otherwise enjoyable job description was to attend every Sunday night Mass we held on campus.

Let me give a little background: the school I’m at is largely a commuter school with most students either living at home or going home each weekend to work and spend time with family. Many students, then, go to Mass with their families on Sunday mornings or do not attend Mass at all. Very few students ever attended our Sunday night Masses. (I think the most that I ever saw there were 12 students at one Mass.) I love small communities, but this was different. I was a leader and a minister – but not really. There, at Mass, the priest was the leader; he was the minister. I was just there to set everything up for him and put it away when he left. Sundays were totally different than Monday-Friday. During the week, I would sit with the students and talk to them and engage in spiritual conversation and practice. On Sunday nights, I was the priest’s helper. Continue reading

Sister Ocean

This is a post by 瑠威 明 Francesco Matsuo. Lui is Japanese, FtM, was born in Japan and raised all over the world.  He was raised in a very conservative Buddhist family in a Shinto environment. Early in his life, he had an urge to become a Capuchin Franciscan or a Franciscan monk. However, due to his gender identity, he is still looking for any order that will accept him as who he is. Lui writes poetic reflections for the Young Adult Catholic Blog where he uses inspiration from nature to gain spiritual insights.


Wall to Watch, Silvia Grav Photography

One summer day

I stood on a beach

Beneath my naked feet

Sands rejoicing rays of bright sunshine

I was on the beach

Carrying many cups of water from different sources

Water from different rivers

Raindrops gathered on leaves on alocasia

Water from kitchen sink and even from a toilet bowl

finishing homework over summer vacation

that Left me with many cups filled with water

I decided to go out and play

Standing on the beach

One by one I pour water from cups

Saw Sister Ocean gently accepting

Water I brought

Gentle wave making joyous sounds

Expressing their joyful reunion

Welcoming back her sisters and brothers

One thing I noted

Sister Ocean didn’t spit it back out

No matter which journey each cup of water had taken

Waters from different rivers

Water from sky in a form of rain

Water from kitchen sink

And water from toilet bowl

All were welcomed back in

Cups of water becoming one with the whole

Sister Ocean gave another wave

This time, a little bigger,

Sands under the feet drew me in

As Sister Ocean gives me warm hugs

With love of her wave

Welcoming me to join the celebration of reunion

Tears flew from my eyes

Realizing if Creator created such loving Water like Sister Ocean

Then how much more compassionately accepting our Creator would be!

No matter of what journey each cups of water took

No matter of what kind of purpose different water had

Sister Ocean welcomed them back

Rejoicing in reunion

So shall our Creator

No matter of different passages we take

Our Creator will welcome all back

Once Our journey and purpose is done on Earth


This is the experience I had after one science assignment in grade school over summer vacation back in Japan. (We Japanese have homework during our short less than a month of summer vacation.)

The nature had always been a good teacher and a mentor for me as well as being my spiritual brothers and sisters. I felt love from divinity in nature that day, and back then I only knew rejection by classmates, because I was “weird”, too rough, too outspoken for a gender that others applied me as.

I didn’t know rejection and oppression I was to face from the Church and Church officials, just because of “which gender identity I know I am”. I simply rejoiced in the finding of Ocean welcoming back the waters from different sources and I rejoiced the hug I received from Creator through sister Ocean and her waves.

Circling Up

This post is by CTA 20/30s Member John Noble and was originally published on Dr. Jennifer Harvey’s blog livingformations.com.


“Malcolm X was a freedom fighter, and he taught us how to fight!”

“Sandra Bland. Say her name!”

“Black. Lives. Matter!”

The New York City subway rang with chants and songs echoing off the tiled walls. Our coalition, gathered in the city for Union Theological Seminary’s Millennial Leaders Project, had just returned from Union Square where we were protesting the killing of Sandra Bland at the hands of the state. As we moved from train to train, we sang these freedom songs, our grief and rage filling cars and stations.

The responses that our group received were varied. Some passengers expressed encouragement. Some sang along when we invited them to, while others actively mocked our chanting and muttered “what is this actually going to change?”

At each station, we had made the decision to have a member of the group bless or pray over the space. I decided to initiate a prayer at the final station, but I was quickly interrupted by a local activist, who instructed me that I needed to stop. Concerned that I had done or said something wrong, I began talking to him to clarify the situation. However, before the situation was resolved, a stunned silence fell over our group of freedom fighters. As we looked around the crowded subway station, we saw that police officers, who slipped in unnoticed, had filled the station, and more were coming down the stairs.

I quickly looked around to find our group surrounded. There was at least one officer for every protester, if not more. I became very anxious, and noticed this anxiety spreading through the rest of the group. The train was nowhere to be seen. As we frantically looked to each other, trying to decide the next steps, someone shouted “White people circle up! Outside barrier!” Continue reading

Of Birthdays, Blood, and Blessings

Jacob wrestling with God (image: http://thefunstons.com/?p=6601)

Jacob wrestling with God
(image: http://thefunstons.com/?p=6601)

Earlier this month I celebrated my 35th birthday, which coincided with a return to my native Midwest after many years away. I reconnected with many friends – some whom I have known for over 20 years since we were fresh-faced (or pimple-faced!) high school freshmen. We shared highlights of our lives: marriages, children’s births, graduate studies, job promotions, travels, and other joys. In each of these conversations, there was also the acknowledgment of wounds – miscarriages, divorce, untimely deaths of loved ones, depression, medical diagnoses, and job losses. You don’t get to 35 without wounds of one kind or another. In our conversations on post-high school/post-college “real world” lives, there were both joys and wounds to name.

In the midst of moving I came across a prayer card, given to me years ago by my friend Catherine, a fellow undergrad French major. The prayer card included a French mistake that was at once ironic and illuminating: she had written “Que Dieu te blesse” instead of “Que Dieu te bénisse.” Instead of saying “May God bless you,” she had inadvertently said, “May God wound you.”

“Blessing” and “blood” share the same Germanic/Old English root which etymologists speculate reflect the ancient practice of consecrating a place or a thing with the use of blood. Think of the marking of the lintels with lamb’s blood in Exodus, or Christian language of being “washed in the blood of the lamb.” While the word “blessing” has been sanitized and prettied-up by Hallmark cards or Christian bookstore merchandise, the etymological connection between “blessing” and “blood” remind us of an uncomfortable truth: blessings aren’t all warm and fuzzy. Encounters with the Holy might change us in difficult – even wounding – ways. This truth is reflected throughout scripture – from Jacob/Israel wrestling with God in Genesis to Zacharias being struck dumb in Luke to Saul/Paul being blinded in Acts. This truth is reflected in our own lived experience – as I clearly saw in the faith journeys of my age peers. Continue reading

(A Bit Of) My Story

Julia M. is a new writer for YAC Blog! She loves to take her dog for walks and on them you can often find her stopping to smell the flowers and take pictures of the beauty around her. Currently, she serves as a Campus Minister at a Catholic college in the Midwest. She’s learning what it means to minister to a community while also questioning many of the unnamed-3practices and traditions of the Church; sometimes it’s quite a challenge! She’s especially passionate about feminist theology and story-telling, particularly as they relate to the integration of sexuality and spirituality. 

Today a student came into my office telling me she is confused about her faith life. She had a challenging experience lately and isn’t sure what to think anymore. So I begin by talking about the imperfect journey that we’re all on and how we all desire something more, something greater than what we currently have. I say this to reassure to her that the path to finding this is confusing and sometimes even frustrating. And then I ask her to tell her story. And as she talks, I realize that there’s much more than just a questioning of what she believes and how to practice it; her questioning stems deep into her childhood. What she was told in CCD classes and read in the Biblical stories of how she ought to be as a woman are coming back to haunt her. She doesn’t want to be just Eve or Mary. She doesn’t want to understand her sexuality in terms of “no’s” and “don’t do that’s.” She wants to be able to embrace her full self as made in the image and likeness of God and she’s not quite sure if the Catholic faith is enough to do that.

And as she’s talking, I realize that her story is my story. And our story is many other Catholic women’s stories. We need to be able to tell our stories, we decide at the end of our talk, to be heard as believers that deeply care about things, not just as “girls” divided into the “faithful” or “unfaithful” based on our sexual experiences.

So, I come here searching for a place to tell my story. And the story of other women I encounter. But for now, I’ll start with me.

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