Women’s Emerging Voices

Celebrating St. Phoebe

Following the September 2023, month-long celebration of St. Phoebe, we want to share with you a sampling of Discerning Deacons’ list of the quotes that local event organizers have reported from their Phoebe celebrations and from members of their community who participated in them:

  • “St. Phoebe is a sign of hope today that the gifts of women will be more fully realized and utilized.”
  • “We need leadership that embraces the masculine and feminine, a model that was, ahem, modeled by St. Phoebe and St. Paul. Trusting one another as equals.”
  • “So powerful, inspirational and hopeful. Thank you.”
  • “Powerful conversation in the spirit among students from a range of perspectives, personal story shared by religious sister after the Spanish mass, female student sharing that this gave her imagination she did not have before about her own role in the Church.”
  • “A male friend cried afterwards as he recounted how inspired he was by all of us women, and how honored he was and choked up to read one of the prayers during the procession.”
  • “A young woman of 25 years old came up and said how much she appreciated the courage we had in sharing our witness.”
  • “I connected with someone from my parish who I’ve known my whole life not knowing that she is also very passionate about expanding women’s leadership in the Church.”
  • “Some participants commented that they didn’t feel connected to the global synod at all until this event.”
  • “We had some really beautiful intergenerational interaction at the event. Our two women witnesses were college students, but the majority of attendees were middle aged or older, and there was some pretty deep and meaningful sharing in the unique space we created.”
  • “Here at St. Ambrose University, we see many women in leadership roles that amplify their sharing of the good news. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he acknowledges Phoebe and Prisca, who were both women with leadership roles that amplified their ministry. But the reality of women in positions of Church leadership hasn’t been and still isn’t normal in many places. So, this is the hope of many of the people of God – to have all Church spaces be ones in which women are able to proclaim fully the good news in their own, unique ways. Because when this door is opened, it helps to build up the entire Church!”
  • A parishioner told me after, “there was something in me, as a woman that has spent my whole life in parish ministry, that had died. And today it feels alive again. Thank you.”
  • “I don’t know who exactly it hurts to allow women into the diaconate…on the other hand I know that many people are hurt by not allowing women to be included in ordained ministry.”
  • “I don’t think most people had ever even heard of St. Phoebe before.”
  • “May the infinite and intimate service of St. Phoebe be acknowledged and accepted by all Catholics.”

Please continue to visit St. Phoebe Day Resources on the Discerning Deacons website.

Voice of the Faithful’s Women’s Initiative

The Women’s Initiative is dedicated to the proposition that all baptized Catholics—women and men—have equal access to all positions within the Church and have a voice in all decision-making processes. Learn more by reading the white paper developed by a collaborative working group that included members from the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP), lay religious, and representatives from VOTF and FutureChurch.

VOTF encourages conversation on all ministries and opportunities for women, and a primary focus is the restoration of the ordained female diaconate. In addition, the Women’s Emerging Voices Working Group pursues inclusive, collaborative efforts through its advocacy network.

As Voice of the Faithful commemorates its 20th year of raising lay voices during 2022, we salute women whose voices were emerging 20 years ago when VOTF was getting started. These “Church ladies” became part of an organization giving women power and a voice in the Catholic Church. Serving the fledgling VOTF are, left to right, Ann Carroll, then vice president, Mary Ann Keyes, then chair of Parish Voice, and Maura O’Brien, then council moderator.

What You Can Do

1. Write a letter to your bishop calling for ordained women deacons.

You can find your bishop’s address on the list USCCB maintains.

2. Distribute cards summarizing the evidence and the need for women deacons.

Each card has two paragraphs (one front and one back) summarizing the case for women deacons. They are designed to print out (on paper or card stock) on your home computer or via a copy service. Just click the link for the language needed (below), then save the PDF file to your computer. Print the file using your printer’s double-sided function (be sure to choose “flip on long side” in the options). The two-sided page then can be cut into six separate cards (or papers) for you to hand out.

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3. Conduct DeaconChat projects in your faith communities.

In conjunction with FutureChurch and the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, VOTF participates in DeaconChat, an initiative aimed at fostering education and conversations about women deacons. The program includes three elements:

  • Learn about women deacons.
  • Share what you learn with others–both lay and clergy.
  • Connect with others for conversations about restoring this Church ministry for women.

While on the DeaconChat page, be sure to check out the resources available for download. We are grateful to FutureChurch for preparing the web pages and sharing their documents so that we all can participate in this vital conversation.

VOTF and FutureChurch also have issued a call for U.S. bishops to publicly support the restoration of the female diaconate.

For a broader look at the issues and resources on women deacons, also check out the Catholic Women Deacons website.

More Action!

Active Discernment of Ordained Women’s Diaconate

Read Women Deacons: Past, Present, and Future by Gary Macy, William T. Ditewig, and Phyllis Zagano, then host sessions using the Study Guide prepared to accompany the book.

Also by Dr. Phyllis Zagano, the book Women: Icons of Christ, a history of women’s ministry in the Church. It is available as an e-book and in paper from Paulist Press and on Amazon. The discussion Study Guide is available for free download on the Hofstra website by clicking here.

Resources & Readings

*** Suggested Reflection: Read “Les femmes diacres catholiques: un état de la question” ISTINA, LXVII (2022) 289-308. Translated: “Catholic Women Deacons: The State of the Question Part I: Learning from Scripture and History”   Doctrine & Life 72:9 (November 2022) 2-12 and “Catholic Women Deacons: The State of the Question Part II: Contemporary Analysis” Doctrine & Life 72:10 (December 2022) 35-50.  ***

Discerning Deacons’ St. Phoebe Study Circle Guide that includes content for up to six weeks of guided learning and reflection on women deacons

Women Deacons Study Guides, by Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate-in-residence and Adjunct Professor of Religion at Hofstra University — Study Guide for “Women: Icons of Christ,” Study Guide for “Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future,” Study Guide for “Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church”

What Do We Know About Women Deacons? By Phyllis Zagano and Bernard Pottier, MST Review, Vol. 24, No. 2 (2022)

Are We Protagonists Yet? By Susan Bigelow Reynolds in Commonweal magazine, with link to free discussion guide

Called to Contribute: Findings from an In-depth Interview Study of US Catholic Women and the Diaconate, By Tricia Bruce, Ph.D., with Cella Masso-Rivetti and Jenniver Sherman (Bruce is the author of Faithful Revolution: How Voice of the Faithful Is Changing the Church.)

Declaration on Status of Women in the Church — developed by a collaborative working group that included members from the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP), lay religious, and representatives from VOTF and FutureChurch

DeaconChat Campaign — collaborative effort with AUSCP and FutureChurch

Women Deacons: How Long? — paper on restoring the female diaconate to the Church (15 pages)

Suggested Readings: Women in the Church — additional resources and information on women’s roles (9 pages)


Catholic Women Preach hopes eventually to publish reflections for the three annual cycles of Scripture readings used in Catholic Masses. While this project is underway, you may like to sample some of the many homilies recorded so far, including this one by one of VOTF’s trustees, Svea Fraser.

Called to Serve: Two Women’s Witness (a YouTube video posted by “Discerning Deacons”)

Current Debate on Women Deacons and the Papal Commission(link is external)

Salt & Light Media “Witness” Interview(link is external)

Salt & Light Media “Women Deacons”(link is external)

Global Perspectives “Questions for the Modern World: Women Deacons”(link is external)

Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future | Conversations with America(link is external)

Santa Clara University Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministry: Women Deacons(link is external)

Los Angeles Religious Education Workshop Women Deacons — Who Were They? What Did They Do?(link is external)