Women Deacons in the Catholic Church:
A Parish Conversation about an Open Question
St. Nicholas Parish — Evanston, Illinois
In 2009 a parishioner of St. Nicholas, Chris Murphy, spoke with the pastor explaining that he felt called to enter the Deacon Formation Program. After consulting with staff and Pastoral Council, the pastor scheduled a series of parish-wide listening sessions at the beginning of 2010. Participants were invited to share their thoughts and feelings about sponsoring a parishioner into the Deacon Formation Program. In May of 2010, four adult formation sessions were provided for those who were interested in learning more about the role, tradition, and history of deacons in the Church. In the course of these sessions, we learned that the issue of ordaining women to the diaconate is an open question in the Catholic Church.
In the summer of 2010, a steering committee was formed to further explore the issue of women and the diaconate. In the fall of 2010, a female member of St. Nicholas, Lynne Mapes-Riordan, expressed a desire to explore a perceived call to the permanent diaconate; Chris Murphy entered the first year of the Deacon Formation Program. Since that time, the steering committee has continued to focus on the issues surrounding the ordination of women to the permanent diaconate.
In January 2011, the steering committee, including our female inquirer, and the pastor met with Bishop Francis Kane, Vicar for Vicariate II to discuss this issue. The committee then prepared a written position paper and submitted it to Cardinal Francis George (follow the link below). On September 16, 2011, the steering committee was accompanied by our pastor to a meeting with Cardinal Francis George. It was a very positive and productive meeting. The Cardinal was open-minded on the issue of the ordination of women to the diaconate. He affirmed the strength of several points in our position paper. He also raised some theological issues that he feels have not yet been resolved. Cardinal George agreed that there would be benefits to having women deacons in the Archdiocese of Chicago and that it would be helpful for Rome to make a final decision on this issue one way or the other. He said he would take this issue to Rome – to both the International Theological Commission (which has looked at it in the past) and to Pope Benedict during his next visit. In December, he arranged a one-on-one meeting with our female inquirer as part of continuing the conversation.
The steering committee has begun to publish a series of pamphlets to educate parishioners on the key issues surrounding the ordination of women to the diaconate, and to keep parishioners informed of any conversations with the Cardinal or the larger Church (follow the links below). We hope that we have begun an ongoing parish conversation that will bear fruit in the parish and the local Church as part of the conversation of the universal Church.
- Position Paper to Cardinal George
- Pamphlet #1: Women Deacons in the Catholic Church: An Open Question
Folleto #1: Mujeres Diáconos en la Iglesia Católica: Un Asunto sin Resolución
- Bibliography of books, articles and other source material related to the queston of women in the diaconate
- Letter sent to Cardinal George February 18, 2013 regarding the upcoming conclave
- Pamphlet #2: Women Deacons in the Catholic Church: An Open Question
Folleto #2: Mujeres Diáconos en la Iglesia Católica: Un Asunto sin Resolución