This week of #JVStories, Katie a FJV living in Colorado shares more about being a feminist within the Catholic community. Learn more about some of her challenges and the call for our diverse community to come together to serve others.
By Katie Lacz
From as early as I can remember, I have loved being a part of the Catholic Church. My Catholic elementary school was warm and loving. We’d sing grace before snack time. At school Masses the priest walked the aisle, asking us questions and incorporating the answers into his homily. Post-Vatican II songs like “Only a Shadow” and “Bloom Where You’re Planted” still hold a special place in my heart.
As soon as I was old enough, I became an altar server at my local church. My older brother and I often served together. I would sit up straight, hands folded, and watch out of the corner of my eye as my brother slouched, sighed, and stared off into space. I’d glare at him as best I could in my holiest manner. (I’m not proud of this.)
I sang in music ministries; I loved participating in retreats. Shockingly, I didn’t go to a Jesuit (or Catholic) college, but getting involved with Catholic campus ministry was one of the most important parts of my college years.
My next step into JVC was the first time I really looked at what our faith tradition had to say about social justice. I did anti-death penalty community organizing in Raleigh, North Carolina, which means I got a yearlong education in what it means to work for systemic change. In that year, and the ones following it, I learned that Jesus not only immediately cared for the wounded people around him; he stood up to systems of the empire that oppressed and dehumanized people.
As I spent more time drawn to the idea of systemic change, my eyes and my heart eventually turned to the Church that I love. No one has ever pretended that the Church is perfect – it is and always will be an already-but-not-yet expression of the reign of God. But I found it harder to see only men presiding at the altar, or performing sacramental rituals, or in positions of authority and decision-making.”
This was, and is, painful on a number of levels. As a feminist, I believe in the inherent equality of men and women. As someone who has studied theology, I see explanations for a male-only priesthood that suggest that women are simply incapable of acting in the person of Christ. And as a Catholic and a child of God, I feel a call to ordained ministry and the Church that I love won’t let me live that out.
Some people in this situation leave the Church, and I understand this. One institution alone does not contain God. This means that fidelity may be going through one parting and loss to gain a new and deeper relationship elsewhere. Some people stay, and I understand this too. If everyone who felt the Spirit inviting the Church in a new direction left it, how much harder would it be for change to occur?
My time in JVC taught me that a large part of our call as Catholics is to come together as a diverse community to serve others and work for change in the spirit of the Gospel. This call ought to ground any work we do in the immense love of Jesus, especially when that work challenges the status quo. And JVC taught me to work creatively with what you have, wherever you are.
And so, I bring those lessons with me in the tension and discomfort of lovingly challenging the Church that is my home. The Gospels show Jesus repeatedly challenging gender norms of his time by inviting women into the inner circle of his apostles. I and many other women raise up these stories, and raise our own voices to say that we, too, can contribute to the give-and-take of preaching. I witness women in other denominations, and women who identify as Catholic, ministering the sacraments with reverence and grace. I stand with women who dare to say that they feel called to the diaconate, to the priesthood, and say that the voice of the Spirit cannot be silenced. I find my own ways to minister and to preach in ways that do not require the act of ordination.
At this point, there is no concrete answer for me. The only thing I can do, as Rainer Maria Rilke puts it, is to “live your questions now.” I believe that the Church is still a place where the Holy Spirit moves and breathes and beckons us into ever-deepening relationship with God. I believe that the quiet “yes” in the depths of my heart will find a way to live incarnate. And I believe that God invites even the Church into a deeper life of justice and equity, no matter how long it takes.
Katie served as a Jesuit Volunteer in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2006. She holds a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College, and a Masters of Divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She currently lives in Colorado with their family. Katie also maintains her own blog at Pure Buttermilk.