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Empowering women in the Catholic Church

THE Catholic Church promotes the empowerment of women without diminishing the central role they play in family life. She believes that women should be full participants in social and ecclesiastical life, including leadership roles and decision-making positions in the Church.

There is so much to do, both in the Church and in society, and all of us, women and men, need to use all of our gifts together to be of service. There are some positive changes happening right now in the Church, with regard to women, albeit slow.

Opportunities need to be sought constantly to ensure that women and men together should be seen as leaders, contributing to the discussion, being models of faith and excellence for younger generations.

International Women’s Day is annually celebrated on Mar 8. This year the celebration was crafted on the theme #IWD2020 #EachforEqual with the slogan “An equal world is an enabled world”. Four local women leaders were invited to share their experiences of being empowered in the Church and their expectations of what more the Church could do to enhance women leadership to serve the Church better.

Empowering women brings positive changes in growing the parish

DYMNAH NIRWAANAH DOMINIC, 37, mother of two toddlers, was elected as the chairperson of the Sook Parish Pastoral Council for the term 2019 – 2021.

She revealed that women’s involvement in any post in her parish is welcomed and encouraged and has not encountered any objection to women being made parish leaders.

For example, 40 percent of the parish’s catechists are women and this figure continues to rise. Nine out of 13 chairpersons for BCC located near the parish are held by women. Several committees and apostolates in the parish are chaired by women, which include Christian Family Life, Commission in Harmonizing God’s Creation, main parish BCC, Liturgical, Children’s Liturgy and Education.

“Running a parish was no mean task,” admitted the mother of toddlers. But as God would have it, the support of the bishop and clergy was pivotal in her undertaking the journey as the PPC chair.

She witnessed along the journey how the women’s commitment to meetings and faithfulness in discharging tasks given to them contributed to the women’s sustaining leadership.

“The women’s work is meticulous and thorough,” noted the PPC chairperson, “besides, their femininity in being ‘motherly’ provided the edge on their services.”

Empowering women brings about positive changes in growing the parish. The ability of women in involving their family in parish programs and initiatives, Nirwanah underlined, is their positive and evangelistic contribution to developing the parish.

Looking back at her journey, she reflected that without the empowerment of women in the Church, the development of a parish could be stunted for there are many roles in the Church that need a woman’s touch.

In sum, women’s involvement in the Church contributes to the development of a parish because of the natural endowment of a woman in being committed, obedient and responsible, as in Jesus’ time when the women followed Him faithfully until the foot of the Cross.

Nirwanah shares her expectation that more women would be leaders of the Church if given the opportunity.

Women, the future hope of the Church

NANCY NELLY JONEY, 40, of Katedral St Francis Xavier Keningau, said that women play the main role in empowering the BCC (KUK/KKD) at both the village and zone levels.

Joney made the statement in her capacity as the chair for the Parish Pastoral Council for the term 2019-2021.

She underscored “Their loyalty and passion to serve have bore much fruit. They can be entrusted in leadership roles. Being women and most of them mothers, their influence has contributed richly to the unity and holiness of the people in the parish at large.”

While appreciating that men and women are equal in their service to the Church, Nancy maintained that women are “the backbone of the Church”.

Through their involvement in the various ministries of the parish, women promote living a faithful life and in loving service to God.

Joney acknowledged that as the women gave themselves to serve, their faith life and evangelization and fundamental skills for sharing their faith and inviting others to encounter Jesus Christ grow exponentially.

The energetic parish leader also recognized that talent alone would not be able to equip her for the task of the PPC chair without the backing of the bishop and the clergy.  Thus, to serve effectively as a team in realizing the diocesan vision and mission, the church has to empower the workers, in particular the women whether as lay or religious.

With foresight, Joney said “I see the women as the future hope of the Church as they are in position to develop the family which determines the behavior of the next generations. We need a quality generation to shape the Church and much is needed to be done, especially programs to empower women.”

She harbors the hope that God who sends will always inspire the Church to empower the women, for a woman who loves God is able to serve in extraordinary ways.

Women, not always be a “participant”, but dare to make a difference

ANNA  AMANDUS, 39, works in the Sandakan Diocesan Pastoral Office in Administration, Diocesan Youth Apostolate (Coordinator) and Migrant Desk. Let’s hear from her:

1.   How has your experience been in the church?

I love serving, especially the young people. I have been serving since my teenage years and as a full time worker for nine years. My experience is bitter sweet – there is no such thing as smooth sailing when it comes to serving. There are always challenges from the Church, leaders, peers, the young people, in terms of finance and personal challenges.

Sometimes I felt I am in a man’s world.  But, God has His way to make both men and women compatible, especially when it comes to serving His people. Men and women are equally needed in the church.

2.   In what ways has the church supported the empowerment of women in your parish?

The church is always open for women to take up leadership role. In areas where it is far from the city, there are women who are catechists. Women are also playing an important role in being part of the decision making in the Parish Pastoral Council, We have specific women ministry such as the Catholic Women Apostolate, and in other ministries and commissions of the parish, women are often seen playing their roles.

3.   What are the positive changes towards this?

For me, I can see more women being involved in the Church no matter what ministries or groups they are serving in. Perhaps women have their strength. A woman is indeed a multitasking individual who can do numerous things at the same time.

4.   Share your expectations.

Yes, I agree that women need to be empowered, and to let them know their worth and importance, not only in the Church, the society but above all in the family. I hope that these women, whether they are young and elderly, will come forward and not be afraid to take up leadership role; that they will not be just a ‘participant’ but grow and be part of the mission and dare to make a difference.

Women need to be EMPOWERED to reach their full potential

DWANA ANDREW, 30, works with the YouthPREPLink under the Good Shepherd Sisters, as well as serving in the Archdiocesan Youth Office. She shares her thoughts on Empowering Women in the Church:

1. I am grateful that the Church acknowledges women in leadership roles. In my experience as a young woman, I am privileged to have the opportunity to lead, especially in youth programs at different levels.

2. As I mature, I can see many open doors, not only for me but for my fellow sisters in Christ, especially in decision making roles. Decision-making roles are, for example, learning to define what we will do in the effort to approach those marginalized.

Currently, I work closely with those socially and economically marginalized. I have learned that decisions made by women need to be holistically discerned as they do not affect one aspect only.

We really need to carefully define who are the marginalized and see how we can, not only help them but more on EMPOWERING them to reach their full potential.

3. In my encounters, I find that women are more courageously outspoken. I also see church structure being more organized, and church community more hospitable.

4. However, there is a need still to be more inclusive and gender parity in decision-making roles.

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