I have experienced a vibrant, life-giving, supportive network of church through religious life (aka “Nun Land”), and I want to find a way to make that experience common for regular people rather than rare and elusive. If regular people are networked, then they are supported. If people are supported, then they may be able to find a way to stay within the Catholic realm. If people are able to find a life-giving way to stay, then the Catholic Church automatically changes by keeping vibrant, progressive, gifted people in it. If such amazing people are networked at the grassroots level, they are supported no matter what the hierarchy do.
What if women in the church were free to share their gifts fully, create new things, and lead? What if sisters, who have historically been considered the women leaders in the church found creative ways to hand over the mantle of leadership to lay women? What if these women were supported spiritually, theologically, financially, and in their ministries? What if we finally, FINALLY shed that dead, old skin of patriarchy that doesn’t fit?
In my recent imaginings, the first step in actualizing the vision is sharing the vision with others through a book project called “Creating Spaces for Women in the Catholic Church.” The second step is to start building the network, which begins every time lay people gather and create alternative spaces for themselves.
When my imagination really runs wild, I wonder…what if different theological schools founded by women religious (and therefore not bound by the same hierarchical limitations of Catholic seminaries) worked together to create some type of program, certificate, something? And what if the task of the students of this program is to thoroughly explore alternative experiences of church –spiritually, structurally, etc. What if this project were funded largely by women religious? What if part of the program was to guarantee jobs to the lay participants? What if participants in this imaginary program were free to create their own jobs (and get paid)? And create their own network and respond to the needs they see in the world (and get paid)? How do we make that real and not some wild imagining?
When I consider all these things, I can’t help but think that the hardest thing to imagine is institutes of higher education working together instead of competing against each other. The rest feels much more doable somehow!
What if believing the small thinking we were raised with in the church is the only thing holding us back?