Sunday, November 18, 2012

Women in the Church

Confucian society, without delving into subtleties, is both patriarchal and hierarchical. Simply put, the men are in command. In contrast, Catholicism, even though influenced during its short history in Korea by Confucianism, acknowledges that women have an extremely important role to play in the Church, but that they have not received the support one would expect. And yet the ones who are keeping the parishes functioning as loving communities of service are the women.

The Church has appointed women chancellors in dioceses around the world. They are experts at synods and world-wide meetings, professors of theology in universities, and papal-appointed theologians serving on International Theological Commissions. Because women are different from men, having complimentary natures, this diversity should be reflected in their roles within the Church. However, the teaching is also clear that women's rights and equal dignity with men have to be defended.

In the Korean Church, women have been given positions of authority over many areas of community and parish life. They are parish council members, even presidents of these councils, as well as leaders of other organized groups. The Peace Weekly introduces us to Cho Cecilia, the woman who is the parish council president of the Myeongdong Cathedral parish of Seoul, the face of Korean Catholicism.

Cecilia, the 22nd president of the cathedral, says: "I  will work with my feminine qualities to find those alienated in the different sectors of the parish and work to enable better communication and fellowship within the community."

58.5 percent of the Catholics in the diocese are women. Although there are more women than men in the diocese, only five parishes of the 220 parishes in Seoul have a woman president. Seeing the determination and resolve of Cecilia, the journalist interviewing the new president said we have another model of what can be accomplished by women, following the example of the first parish president, Kang Columba (1761-1801), who died a martyr.

"Women from 40-50 years of age are the majority of those working within the community," Cecilia said. "Although the women are the workers there are few who are members of the parish council. Their numbers have to increase. There had been talk of a woman parish council head for over ten years; that I finally became the president was the resolve of one pastor who worked to bring it about."

The selection as the parish council head is decided by the past presidents of the council who make up the advisory board. They present the names of qualified candidates for the position to the parish priest, who makes the final decision. Having been a parish council member for the last 15 years, also serving as its vice president, she has a good grasp of what is needed and how to achieve stated goals.Her intention is to have more cultural events and to help make the community more vibrant and attractive to the young and the many foreigners who come to the cathedral.