By Irene Lamunu
God did not form a woman out of the head, lest she should become proud; nor out of the eye lest she should lust; nor out of the ear lest she should be curious; nor out of the heart lest she should be jealous; nor out of the hand lest she should be covetous; nor out of the foot lest she be a busy body; but out of the rib which was always covered. Those were the words of Edersheim 1957,146. “These words indicate the modesty that was to characterize a woman. The divine portrait of a woman as painted on the biblical Canvas is remarkable. The Genesis narrative distinctly lends itself to the impression that Eve as the culmination of the creative week was a climatic jewel in Jehovah’s handiwork,” continued Edersheim. The bible talks about many women prophets, also the Virgin Mary accepted to be the mother of Jesus Christ on whom the church is built. In today’s world, more women are getting advanced theology degrees, some are teaching theology in seminaries and universities, they are writing books and giving spiritual talks. There are women in training to be spiritual directors helping people who seek a mature companion on their faith journey.
A Priest from the order of Saint Benedict (USA) said there is so much women are doing in the church often not documented. Many of them are catechists, religious education teachers, canon lawyers and some extraordinary Eucharistic ministers. Many women also sit on church councils, give retreats, volunteer a lot for church programs and lead bible studies. There are women authors on spiritual matters, women in consecrated life who are dedicated to a life of payer and service in the church. He said, “in most cases mothers are the primary faith formators for children in the home. They teach basic prayers and morals, that is why it’s important for a mother to be a woman of God and cares about passing on the faith to children”, because if there is a break up in a family, there is always a decline in morals and weakening of the church. The Old Testament tells stories of women such as Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Miriam, Debora, Abigail, Ruth, Esther. Apostle Peter directed attention to those “holy women” who aforetime hoped in God (1 Peter 3:5)
A.B Bruce a genealogist talks about the first chapter of the New Testament that portends the status to be accorded women under the law of Christ; the four women are alluded to in the legal ancestral catalog of the Lord. St. Paul affirmed that God sent forth his son, born of a woman (Galatian 4:4). The birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary was the turning point in human history for women. The Savior openly defies the attitude of his day in his frequent dealings with women. He conversed with the women at Jacob’s well (a Samaritan woman), he refused to bend to pharisaical pressure that he should shun the sinful woman who anointed and kissed his holy feet (Luke 7:36) Godly women were numbers among those who ministered to the Christ (Luke 8:3) some of them accompanying him even to the foot of the cross (John 19:25).
Another writer James O.Baird C notes from the bible, though none of the apostles were women (Matt10:2-4) however, some of Jesus’ closest disciples were women. Luke 8:2-3 mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna who helped support Jesus and his apostles with finances as they went preaching. Later when the apostles fled the crucifixion scene in fear, certain faithful and bereaved women remained to watch his death on the cross (Matt 27:55-56). Acts 5:14 states that, when the church began on the day of Pentecost, women, as well, as men entered it in great numbers. There were no distinctions made on the sex of membership. Furthermore, the importance of women to the whole church is reflected by the concern which the early church had for widows who needed care and help. The good works of women are frequently mentioned in scriptures. Dorcas is cited as an example of faithful loving service (Acts 9: 36-39) Lydia is revealed as a woman of great hospitality, constraining Paul and his company to abide in her house(Acts 16:1-15) Phoebe is described as a servant of the church in Cenchreae ( Roman 16:10).
The Church today has not left out women; many have been involved in church activities. Despite the fact the Catholicism does not recognize female priests; they are involved in the day to day activity of the church. Women serve as religious nuns who in their capacity have contributed so much in the church. The Anglican Church has ordained female reverends who have equal authority as their male counter-parts to lead a service and also offer sacraments in the church. The Pentecost like the Anglicans have female pastors who serve like the male pastors. Sister Grace Chandiru who serves in the congregation of Mary Mother of the Church added her voice and said that women have played a very big role in the church and still continue to play a big roles. She states that, right from the beginning women have been instrumental in the salvation history. For instance the “YES” of the Blessed Virgin Mary was very pivotal. It was through her that a Saviour was born for us. Sr. Grace also noted that even today we have ordinary women who are dedicated to serving the Church in so many different ways. They work in the fields of the catechists, clean churches and their surroundings, wash church linen and do the most ordinary of things without which there would have been a breakup in the smooth running of the Church’s ministry. She said that as far as the ministry of consecrated women in the Church is concerned, they bring holistic approach to whatever ministry they are involved in – ministering to the sick, tending to learners in schools and being involved in other social ministries.
So generally speaking, the involvement of women in the ministry of the Church is quite diverse but more often undocumented. But this does not deter them from playing their role – they give the Church that feminine merciful face. The Women’s role in the private teaching of God’s word is also referenced in scripture. In Acts 18:26 Priscilla with her husband Aquilla, privately taught a good but misinformed preacher (Apollo) “the way of God more accurately” Titus 2:4 commands older women to train younger women in Christian living.
Meanwhile, Barry Kamira a student also said the Church as a body has many roles to lay in society, for instance it believed the motherly figure will welcome the innocent souls to church e.g. the children who even Christ said are the most innocent and should not be turned away from Christ or church, the women have taken that role. Kamira added that, Church is not about being a prayer warrior alone but we have different ways of prayer which includes praise and worship. He noted that women have excelled in that field and have taken the lead role in many churches now. He also noted, in Genesis, God created Adam alone but he was lonely, so God created a woman for support, help and companionship. These three aims cannot be achieved by men alone in life or in church.
In June 2017, Pope Francis said women have an essential role to play in interreligious dialogue because of their natural ability to build relationships and fraternity making their involvement necessary in all areas of society. Pope Francis added because women possess special characteristics and can offer important contribution to dialogue with her ability to listen, to welcome and to generously open herself to others, her presence in the church is necessary.
The Pope said this while speaking to members of the Pontifical Council for interreligious dialogue headed by Cardinal Jean- Louis Tauran, who were gathered in Rome for their annual plenary assembly. He added that women can also become fully involved in exchanges at the religious level as well as those at the theological level; the Pope noted that many women are well prepared to face encounters of interreligious dialogue at the highest levels and not just from the catholic side.
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