This November 1-3, Call To Action’s national conference, Living Our Baptismal Call, will bring together Catholics from every corner of the United States to form the largest gathering of progressive Catholics in the country. And here on Young Adult Catholics, we will feature some of this year’s conference speakers that we think young adults will be especially excited to see. Today, we are honored to feature the work of Dr. Diana Hayes. The following is an excerpt of her book, Standing in the Shoes My Mother Made: A Womanist Theology, re-printed with permission from the author. She will be speaking on a panel, The Future of Catholic Ministry, along with Roy Bourgeois, Jamie Manson and Garry Wills.
The Catholic Church is becoming more diverse ethnically, racially, and in gender and sexual orientation. Many, once seen as being only capable of being missioned to, are now themselves almost the majority of the Church’s missionaries. Those whose cultures and traditions were seen as incapable of bearing the weight of the gospel message, thus requiring and usually forcing their assimilation to a Euro-American norm rather than the inculturation of that message into their midst, are now speaking out, asserting their authority as the baptized in Christ to bring God’s message in new and challenging ways to the Church as a whole.
The question of ministry today is especially important in light of these changes, the growing involvement of women and persons of color in ministerial roles at all levels of the Church. How are they being received? What challenges do they bring to a Church still unsure of the call to ministry outside of narrowly defined roles? On the one hand, there is a history within the Church of women being involved in ministerial roles from its earliest beginnings as founders of churches and religious orders, as teachers, preachers, and prophets, and as leaders of public worship.
The evidence of persons of color is not as obvious, however, because race or skin color was not an issue in the early church. One was recognized by one’s country of origin and citizenship in the Roman Empire. It is, unfortunately an issue today and has been from the colonization of the Americas. Race has been, sadly, reflected in the smaller numbers of African Americans, Latinos/as, and others in the priesthood, religious life, and other leadership roles in the Church. Thus, it is an issue that confronts our Church at its very core, locally and globally. A critical question that must be addressed is how our understanding of ministry is being affected by the greater inclusion of women and persons of color whose perspectives, ways of being, and cultures are often radically different from what has historically been asserted as the norm. We must recall again the words of the Vatican Fathers in Lumen Gentium:
All… are called to belong to the new People of God. It follows that among all the nations of the earth there is but one People of God, which takes its citizens from every race,… Since the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world, the Church as People of God takes nothing away from the temporal welfare of any people by establishing that kingdom. Rather does she foster and take to herself, insofar as they are good, the ability, resources, and customs of each people.
All people, regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity are called into God’s service and their ministry is shaped and formed by their particular historical experiences and the particular needs of those among whom they have been called to minister. Just as there is not one way or style of worship in our Church, neither is there one mode or expression of service within the Church. Every language is valued; hand-clapping, swaying in the pews, fervent singing is honored; liturgical dance is a part of many cultures and reverenced. These and other forms of expression do not take away from the Roman Rite, they add to its beauty, solemnity, and expressions of adoration of Jesus Christ.
Diana Hayes is a Professor Emerita, Georgetown University and is the first African American woman to earn a Pontifical Doctorate in Theology.