planning a party for st. phoebe’s feast

My Goal

Celebrate the feast of St. Phoebe, September 3rd with prayer services led by women, praying for the restoration of women to the diaconate through the intercession  of St. Phoebe and the courage of women witnessing to their call. 

Why? And some considerations…

  • Creates an opportunity/invitation for women to go public; and for more people in the Church to express their support for expanding women’s roles in the church 
  • Earn media (possibly just catholic, but would be good to aim for some secular press as well) 
  • Need to consider the way COVID and pandemic has pushed us to new experiences of church — find a way to build on that reality, rather than resist or ignore.  [[messaging questions]]
  • Also want to think about the possible ways to invite a dialogue with the two US members on the commission
    • Do some power analysis:  
    • Anyone have more intel?!
    • Is there a way to invite conversation // share testimony & letters (respectful, tight message, also honest about seeking to discern call) 
      • Flood with letters….??
    • Invite them to engage in a listening process to hear from women about this particular, focused topic of restoring women to the diaconate.
    • [[Demand needs some work. How much power do we need // how many letters to make an impression. I am sure they have gotten ZERO testimony letters! How do we get into relationship]]

What’s in it for me? 

  • I want to draw attention to the fact that there is a commission + this is under consideration right now in the Church. 
    • AKA: We have permission to talk about this issue, are well within bounds of magisterial appropriateness…
  • I want to build on work I’ve begun in my parish (reading Zagano’s book, having a talk, writing to the Bishop) — to continue to strengthen the parish’s identity and posture of support for women in ministry 
  • I want to test this space — this workshop — can we use this space to get clear, and then find paths to act collectively (not only in individual discernment, but to move toward collective work of different, diverse kinds) 
  • I want to disrupt narratives of new feminism, or at least, complicate them — as they continue to lay claim to Catholic-woman-ness with the next generation (leaving behind so very many folks)
  • I don’t want bishops to be able to say they have never met or heard of a woman clearly express a desire to serve as an ordained deacon. I don’t want that to get to be a story they can tell. I don’t think there has been a super-organized effort that has been powerful enough to demand, in key places, that the local clergy “receive her in the Lord” 
  • I DO NOT WANT A deaconette role that is second fiddle to deacons; that is the last thing we need. I want to be part of building power with people of faith to witness to this way to meet some of the needs of the church & bring about a bit of renewal & healing. (again – not a fix-all)

Who is with me? 

Please do comment below to get the conversation going — would love insights, feedback, poke holes, offer suggestions, and if you’re up for joining the party planning, would love to scheme further about this near term goal. 

I’m working on my sheet / action plan here. It still needs a LOT of fleshing out! 

13 thoughts on “planning a party for st. phoebe’s feast

  1. Casey, this was so exciting to read. I don’t actually think my eye-balls moved fast enough. I think this is brilliant. Would love to connect with you!

  2. Oh yeah. I am indeed with you, Casey. I will think on your proposal which models something both concrete and do-able. Wondering how and what such a conversation might open up in a collection of pew-sitting, gum-chewing Catholic women (and men) in my parish. Several years ago at the time of the first commission, Luke came with a colleague to speak to my parish on women in the diaconate. He talked history and context; she spoke of her vocation. A lot of water under the bridge since then. It may be time to re-visit the topic.

    My parish has virtually no experience with the diaconate even in its current incarnation. My pastor who has been with us for 20 years wants to see an expanded the role for women in the church. Judging from comments he’s made about the present diaconate and stories from his colleagues, I have no doubt he would welcome women confecting Eucharist before seeing them ordained them as deacons. He has said things from the pulpit that would undoubtedly appall our bishop and has been applauded by the community. Courageous, that. But there is no public posture as a parish nor, from what I can see, any felt need by parishioners for expanded roles for women. There is probably a paucity of imagination here.

    We have a new parish women’s ministry group, founded by women for women, that is both welcome and well received. That’s a good thing, much needed, and empowering within a quite traditional mindset. I’ve participated in some of their sessions. They are grateful for this opportunity, seem relatively content with church as is and notably quiet about anything else may be stirring within. That’s disheartening, but then no one has asked a direct question either. I’d love to see a re-imagined diaconate beyond the box plopped right in the middle of the People of God and see what it shakes loose. To see some currently ordained deacons join publicly in an exploring such a vision would be awesome. Would that it would prompt some dreaming about how we need to do church differently in light of systemic racism, the loss of youth, COVID and more. It might also encourage some women I know to dare to open up a bit.

    Strategy, strategy, strategy.

    1. I agree with your sentiment regarding how vital strategy is to this moment. I feel like this workshop is teaching me that I was looking only at frosting and I had no idea delicious cakes even existed! Thank you for reinforcing the tasty cake!

  3. I would love to come to the party!! I like your idea of a listening session. We should give the committee testimony. I also think that we need to share the call we have heard to a broader base. Katie Larson shared an image that I think was super powerful–It is our time to stand on top of the mountain; it is time to show and share our image of God.

  4. I love this. And I love that you dream is powered by the force of your whole person.

    I am happy to talk about how we make this happen at IC. Oh I’d love to plan a real party with people in the same space and shared food…In absence of that, I think that looking at the components of your vision and figuring out how to celebrate each one. Off the top of my head that looks like:

    Education – about the commission and that this conversation is happening and is important
    Prayer – intercession of St. Phoebe and for the Spirit to be with the commission and the women called to this space
    Witness – your story and others who are called to this role, talking about the real need for this etc.
    Action – letter writing, media attention etc.

    I think another thing that is important to consider is how to make sure that this conversation is distinct from conversations about women’s ordination to the priesthood. I think some education about the role of priests and deacons would be helpful. Most of my experience of deacons is either transitional as a step toward priesthood or as the old white guy who would read the prayer of the faithful and occasionally give a homily. Both of those give the impression of deacon as “priest lite” and the role women would have to settle for because priestly ordination is off the table. You are suggesting something new and full of life and distinct from priesthood.

  5. I’d love to come to the party! Also, count me in as a resource in engaging media – glad to share contacts with publications I have written for or otherwise network.

    So much yes to complicating the narrative of the “new feminism” as you have shared it. This seems to relate to Brigitta’s post (and Catherine’s response) around refuting complementarianism.

    “the risk of clericalizing the laity” is a term I’ve heard over and over by men (especially priests/seminarians) resistant to the idea of restoring the diaconate to women. Perhaps some talking points to respond to this?

    I wasn’t able to see the sheet/action plan – google didn’t give me access. Can you send that to me via email? I’ll look it over and see how I might join you in this.

  6. Count me in! Count me in to work on this project, to bring it to my community, or just be a part of the journey!

  7. What an exciting vision, Casey!!

    As a bit of a random side-note, I didn’t grow up attending a church with deacons (my little church in Vermont barely has priests! we have 2 priests spread across 4 churches in 4 different towns), so I’d never even thought about the diaconate as a vocation. Reading your writing makes me think!

  8. I would be happy to attend your party! Your goals and reflections here are so big, Casey, that I can imagine myself focusing on just one bullet with intentionality for a year! wow! One of my observations is that you said that you would dislike a deaconette role, because it may make matters worse than better. I observed that I am fascinated with and content with a deaconess role. I am wondering if that is a pessimistic attitude that I have OR I suspect that is linked to my attraction of the portrayal of meekness. Am I making sense? I feel like I sound crazy. Anyways, that felt like my most interesting observation that I had of myself. Last, I love your idea of talking to the American commission participants and reaching out to them. I also do not want any Catholic to say “I know of no woman who wants to be a deacon.” I underestimated that that desire is so important at this time. Thank you for this post.

  9. I am with you all the way.I love the party idea. I can bring food! I am conflicted on women deacons because to me it is crumbs from the table. I wantt equality and that means women priests. Thank you for all you do.

  10. The well-worn, back handed compliment of “feminine genius” is a code term for “complementarity”, which is a code word for “submissive” and “oppressed”. You, Casey, reclaim feminine genius as disruptive, prophetic, wildly creative, open to the Spirit Who blows where She will. Your feminine genius cracks stone seams of centuries-old misogyny cloaked in gentle sounding, disingenuous praise. I’m inspired by your feminine vision and energy! What is your vision of women deacons? How, exactly, will a parish benefit from women deacons? How will women deacons promote further equality of women in our church? How do you handle the criticism of “you just want women priests and are using female deaconate as a step in that direction”? For me, it’s clear. Yes, that’s right. Women deacons will pave a road to women priests. That’s what I want, because it is right and good.

  11. Another domer is on the commission: Catherine Brown Tkacz, a Ukrainian-American author with a doctorate in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame;
    She says female deacons’ main role was to take Eucharist to the homebound, and that they’re ontologically different than male deacons, so maybe needs some work.

    Add South Bend to that list. I made a list of 30 women I want to be deacons, and 14 of them are in South Bend.

Leave a Reply