Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Women's Role Within the Church

Writing in the Catholic Times a Jesuit professor, coordinator of the social pastoral work of Jesuits in Asia,discusses the role of women in the Church.He works with a five-member team he calls a dream team.

The team is made up of  three Jesuits and two laypeople, both women. Three are Asian and two are white. Two are from North East Asia and two from South Asia, and one from Australia. Each of them has a unique experience, personality, and style which they bring to the team. They reflect the different Jesuit ways of  pastoral social involvement and because of the differences, there is, the professor says, a pooling of resources to better achieve their stated goals. 

An anecdote shows what he means. The lay woman from Australia is responsible for a Jesuit social pastoral volunteer group made up of many non-Catholics. She has no difficulty in keeping close to the Jesuit values when working with such a group. She was asked by a Jesuit to come to his country and explain to the Jesuits how to live according to their own values. The invitation was given at a large gathering and received much applause. The writer feels that this would be of greater value than having a Jesuit give the same kind of talk.

The women of his team have taught him a lot, he says. The Jesuits are interested in structures and assignments, while the women are interested in relationships and people. When the women speak, the professor says there is more empathy, understanding and love in what they say than we normally hear. This reminds him of what the theologian Balthazar said about St. Peter's  and the Blessed Mother's approach. Peter was interested in organic structures and pastoral efficiency, while Mary preferred consensus, understanding and fellowship. Both approaches are used by the team, which multiplies the results of the work.

The West has followed the way of Peter to excess, and Mary's way was disregarded, according to Balthazar, a European theologian. The West wanted efficiency and quickness; as a result widespread hostile feelings were engendered. Love, prayer, and calm discernment were missing. Peter's way can be seen today in our society. In the last 50 years, the industrialization and democratization of society have had terrific results but society has overlooked the needs of the stragglers. There is a lack of concern for the least fortunate members of society. Can we also say that this thinking has entered the Korean Church? the professor asks.

We pray that we may begin to  understand women's rightful place and treatment in our society. As companions and compatriots they need to be understood, respected and encouraged. Doing so will give more life to the Korean Church.

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