Thursday, December 13, 2012

Women's Role within the Church

In the documents of the Incheon diocese's first synod, the document on Women's Apostolate/Dignity and Mission of Women contains the following statement:
    Scholars looking to the future envision a third millennium where the vertical structure of society will disintegrate and will be replaced by a horizontal structure. Our present pyramidal social structure is changing to a circular network, and in the 21st century this social structure and the world of communication will be changed from a vertical into a horizontal one. In the horizontal society that is coming, the collaborative relationship will be more valued than the competitive relationship, and people, by integrating their individual roles based on creativity and capability, will pursue a common goal.

On the section Women's Activity at the Beginning of the Catholic Church in Korea, the following appears:

    As described in the process of the establishment of the Catholic Church in Korea, lay leaders, both men and women in the last period of the Yi dynasty, could  grasp that all humans are created equal without distinction of class and this was shown in that they studied Catholic doctrine together and prayed together regardless of age and gender. In this way, they proclaimed the  Gospel of Jesus Christ. Women especially were very active in social and cultural affairs. Catholic women learned difficult Chinese characters in a patriarchal social context where sexual discrimination  prevailed. They translated Catholic books into Korean and taught it to their children and to other women. They also wrote guidelines for the appropriate attitude behavior and regulations for  women that were used to instruct women. It is a fact that their works are highly recognized in the history of Korean women. In this way, the characteristic of the  Catholic Church was that they learned the Catholic doctrine and shared it, without distinguishing between men and women, and all together, they announced it to their descendents. This is a precious example for our modern age.

Recently, the subcommittee for women, under the Bishops Lay Apostolate Committee, met together in a seminar. Written up in the Catholic Times, it was an effort to determine what roles modern society is  asking women to take in the Church, in order for them to develop their unique strengths and to realize their identity within the Church. Lectures  and discussions  were held during the one-day  meeting.

A religious sister contrasted the way Jesus related with women in the society of his time with the difference seen in our society and in our homes today. Men are often given center stage; it is their opinions that count, both in society and in the Church. We have to move from a Church where women are seen only in positions of voluntary service, she said, to where they can take their place with their special capabilities in leadership roles within the Church.

A priest mentioned the role of the Blessed Mother and compared it to the present role of women within the Church. They need to add their feminine qualities to the work of the Church, he said.They are to give life, creativity and their unique insights to the Church. But women's primary role, even before their place in the  visible community of Church, is in the family.They are to work in making the family the primary basic church community, and stressed that working to evangelize the family is a big part of the work of our women.

Women's work and their roles in society and in the church are usually hidden, but they have always been important and significant. There is a desire on the part of many for women to have more access to positions where their insights, and strengths are more visible and influential in leading the community of faith. More programs for the education of women for this role in   the church are necessary. Korea has moved a little closer to a time where the importance of the women's role within the church will be taken for granted, but the culture does make it more difficult than it should be.