NEWTON, Mass., Feb. 8, 2011 – Three women who reported losing employment because of discrimination are sharing $15,500 in awards from the second round of grants from the Voice of the Faithful’s Emily & Rosemary Fund for Women in the Church.
The recipients are Paula Beaton of Corpus Christi, Texas, Cathy Roldan of Vista, Calif., and Keisha Veryser of Charlevoix, Mich.
Lynette Petruska, formerly a Roman Catholic nun and now a St. Louis attorney, established the Emily & Rosemary Fund in 2009. The fund was established to support women who lose employment in the Roman Catholic Church as a result of injustice or discrimination and to help women who are working to bring about justice and equality in the Church. Petruska said she experienced injustice and discrimination after opposing sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct by priests at Gannon University, Erie, Penn., where she was appointed the first female chaplain in 1999.
“I was fortunate to have a profession to which I could return, but many women serving the church find themselves and their families at great risk when targeted by discriminatory practices or when they stand up to injustice,” she said during a ceremony when the fund was established.
In her grant application, Beaton said she was forced to resign from her position as editor of the Corpus Christi diocese’s newspaper because of her plans to marry a man who had left the priesthood. She had been with the paper for 20 years and was editor for the last 16 years. She said she will use the grant to help obtain a degree in social work to improve her chances of employment in a service agency or ministry.
“I am humbled, thankful and happy to receive this grant,” Beaton said. “I have felt rejected by a sector of the Catholic Church, so it is quite comforting to be supported by another part. I am grateful for all the work Voice of the Faithful does to help those who have been neglected and/or unjustly treated by the institutional Church. Initiatives such as the Emily & Rosemary Fund for Women in the Church are a concrete sign of Christ’s continuing love and compassion, principles that I believe should be at the heart of everything the Roman Catholic Church says and does."
Roldan said she lost her position as director of religious education when she reported unfair treatment of women and bullying from her boss, who was a priest. At the time, she was close to completing her bachelor’s degree and said she would use her grant to complete a degree.
“I’m so grateful to be given this grant,” Roldan said. “It feels very lonely, as a woman, to fight injustice in the Catholic Church. This grant is giving me the opportunity and motivation to finish my degree and find ways to offer support to others facing similar circumstances. Thank you Ms. Petruska.”
Veryser was principal of St. Mary Catholic School in Charlevoix, Mich., which is in the Gaylord Michigan Diocese, when she was falsely accused of misappropriating school funds and lost her position, even though no previous accusations had ever been made about how she administered school funds. The priest who oversaw and approved her handling of funds chose not to support her. Several staff and parishioners had reported abusive behavior by the priest, and he was recently removed. She will use her grant to defray legal fees from the civil suit that she has brought against the Diocese of Gaylord.
“Receiving this grant has lifted my spirits,” Veryser said, “as I now know that there is a Catholic organization that understands my plight and is truly willing to help me recover my professional reputation. I am most grateful for the vote of confidence that this grant expresses.”
“These women’s stories are extremely compelling,” said Dan Bartley, VOTF president, “and we are most appreciative that Lynette has made it possible to ease somewhat the effects of discrimination that women can experience within a church we are striving to remake more in Christ’s image. We fear many stories like these never get told, which indicates how very large our work is in reforming the Church’s attitudes toward women.”
The application process for the next Emily & Rosemary Fund for Women grants is under way, and grant applications are available at http://www.votf.org. Completed applications must be returned to VOTF, P.O. Box 423, Newton, MA 02464, by March 1, 2011.
Voice of the Faithful
Voice of the Faithful was formed in 2002 in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. Started in a Wellesley, Mass., church basement, Voice of the Faithful has expanded worldwide to comprise more than 150 Parish Voice affiliates and 35,000 members. More information is available at http://www.votf.org.
Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, 617-291-3495 Cell