In the Vineyard :: August 28, 2023 :: Volume 23, Issue 15
Celebrating Saint Phoebe
Across the United States, more than 147 parishes to date are preparing to celebrate St. Phoebe and women’s emerging roles in the Church this September 2023, not just on St. Phoebe Day (September 3) but throughout the month. St. Phoebe is emerging anew from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
As Pope Francis calls the world to Synodality, women’s concerns for active participation in the Church have been among the major topics raised across all the continents. To understand how, read the “Working Document for the Continental Stage” of the Synod on Synodality and consider Isaiah’s admonition to “enlarge the space of your tent.” The Holy Spirit has inspired women and men to raise their voices and prayers on behalf of women’s roles in the Church today.
With September 3rd falling on a Sunday this year and with the opening of the Synod on Synodality occurring at the beginning of October, Catholics have added incentive for prayerful hope for change and renewal in our Church.
Watch for announcements of activities in your parish to celebrate St. Phoebe during September. Click here or on the image below for an example of what the St. John – St. Paul Catholic Collaborative and the Archdiocese of Boston are planning and to register for the event (notice that preregistration is required). Also, visit the Discerning Deacons’ “Celebrate St. Phoebe Day” webpage to add your St. Phoebe Day celebration to the website’s list. For all things related to St. Phoebe, including downloadable prayer booklets and prayer cards, visit the St. Phoebe Day Resources on the Discerning Deacons’ website.
Here are some of the activities that faith communities around the world are planning for St. Phoebe:
“A weekend retreat in Australia for women and men interested in discerning the permanent diaconate. There will be a Mass on Saturday with our group for St. Phoebe, followed by Mass with the community on Sunday, and a webinar on St. Phoebe.”
“We have selected five women who will offer a witness at each of our five Masses on the weekend of September 9/10. Our team will meet with the selected women several times and provide advice and support for them.”
“Women will offer reflections on the Word and then lead a discernment session after Mass, reflecting with the Instrumentum Laboris.”
“In Nigeria, the Catam Goodwill Ministry will present a liturgical dance procession with the statue or picture of Saint Phoebe.”
“We plan forums (Sundays, Wednesday evenings) for education on the global synod and the history of women in the Church, bulletin inserts with reflections, a children’s/youth skit about St. Phoebe, and an evening prayer service with a woman offering a reflection.”
“Throughout the entire month of September, women will share reflections and testimonials about their vocation to service in the Church.”
“St. Raphaela Center is celebrating St. Phoebe during their monthly Taize Prayer with Adoration. All are invited to join in song, reflect on St. Phoebe and women in the Church, and engage in a space of discernment.”
“We will display St. Phoebe’s icon at the front of the church, have a woman do a reflection on September 3, distribute prayer cards, and, of course, provide food afterwards in the parish hall. We are continuing to have meetings to discuss this.”
“There will be a video reflection for the Feast of St. Phoebe on 9/3, featuring a female student or faculty member. We will also offer another opportunity for a woman to preach at a schoolwide worship service in September.”
“Our deacon will give the homily on September 3 and is committed to sharing with the whole parish who St. Phoebe is and why we are seeking her intercession in this time. Our Church continues to walk on a synodal path of conversion and renewal for mission.”
“We will start with an outdoor procession with 5-8 stops along the way before entering the church. This procession will feature readings from the global synod reports, liturgical songs, and women preaching inside. There will be a bonfire afterwards.”
The Synod on Synodality
Pope Francis recently spoke again about the upcoming Synod on Synodality and noted that while it may be “of little interest to the general public,” it is “truly important” for the Catholic Church.
“I am well aware that speaking of a ‘Synod on Synodality’ may seem something abstruse, self-referential, excessively technical, and of little interest to the general public,” Pope Francis said. “However, what has happened over the past year, which will continue with the assembly next October and then with the second stage of Synod 2024, is something truly important for the Church.”
“We have opened our doors, offering everyone the opportunity to participate, taking into account everyone’s needs and suggestions. We want to contribute together to building the Church where everyone feels at home, where no one is excluded,” Pope Francis said. “That word of the Gospel that is so important: everyone. Everyone, everyone: there are no first-, second-, or third-class Catholics. All together. Everyone. It is the Lord’s invitation.”
The pope underlined that the Church needs to “get used to listening to each other, to talking, not cutting our heads off for a word” and “to listen and discuss in a mature way.” “This is a grace we all need to move forward. And it is something the Church today offers the world, a world so often incapable of making decisions, even when our very survival is at stake,” he said. “We are trying to learn a new way of living relationships, listening to one another to hear and follow the voice of the Spirit.”
The Vatican’s child protection commission is inviting the public to provide feedback on Church safeguarding principles for creating updated diocesan guidelines.
The responses will be used to formulate an updated Universal Guidelines Framework (UFG). The final version of the UFG will be approved at the end of 2023 and distributed to Catholic dioceses and territories around the world, with a request to update their current safeguarding guidelines according to the local culture.
Synod raises hopes for long-sought recognition of women in the Catholic Church
“When Pope Francis called for a worldwide discussion two years ago among rank-and-file Catholics about the main challenges and issues facing the church, the question of women’s ministry and leadership echoed loudly in parishes and bishops’ assemblies. The question is resounding even more loudly as the summit of bishops and lay Catholics, known as the Synod on Synodality, scheduled for October, draws near. Participants and observers alike recognize that any conversation about reforming church hierarchy or promoting lay involvement, Francis’ twin goals for the synod, has to include honest exchanges about the role of women.” – By Claire Giangravé, National Catholic Reporter
Australian archbishop says married Indigenous priests ‘highly likely’
“The Archbishop of Brisbane, Australia, has called for the Vatican to authorize the ordination of married men to the priesthood for ministry among the country’s indigenous communities. Archbishop Mark Coleridge made the call in an interview published Saturday with the newspaper The Australian. The archbishop argued that married priests ordained from within indigenous communities are part of necessary reforms for the Church, which must ‘look quite different’ in the future to continue its mission.” – By The Pillar
The complicated legacy of state investigations of the Catholic sex abuse crisis
“Philadelphia is a ‘very Catholic city,’ Barbara Daly will tell you … This very Catholic city has been hammered in recent years by stories of the abuse of children by Catholic priests recounted in a series of grand jury reports, culminating in a statewide grand jury investigation and a report released by the attorney general of Pennsylvania in August 2018. These events have brought national attention back to the church’s abuse scandal and have inspired a flurry of similar investigations across the country.” – By Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review
Discerning leadership program aims to build a synodal church
“In Pope Francis’ ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ — a 2013 document considered to be the blueprint for his papacy — he called for the church’s mission to be ‘channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.’ A decade later, a newly established Jesuit initiative is training senior church leaders to put that goal into practice through a program aimed at strengthening the practical skills necessary for discernment and reform for a church that is more collaborative than hierarchical. Founded in 2019, the Discerning Leadership program combines Ignatian spirituality with pioneering methodologies for polarity management and fostering communal growth.” – By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter
Catholic church sex abuse victims and activists to call on Ohio attorney general for investigation
“For the second time in five years, a group of victims of sex abuse by Catholic clergy and their supporters is asking Ohio’s attorney general to investigate all six dioceses in the state. Local and national survivors and/or their parents who make up SNAP Network (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), Greater Cincinnati Voice of the Faithful, and Ohioans for Child Protection are holding a news conference Wednesday morning. They will publicly ask Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to conduct a statewide investigation ‘of the history and scope of child sexual abuse, trafficking, child sex abuse enabling, and cover-up in Ohio’s 6 Dioceses.'” – By Jennifer Edwards Baker, FOX-TV19 News
- Child sex abuse survivor group release names of 49 accused Catholic clergy members, By Jonathan Walsh, News 5 Cleveland
- Child sexual abuse survivors release names, urge Ohio to investigate Catholic dioceses, By Morgan Trau and Jonathan Walsh, Ohio Capital Journal
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to facilitate settlements with abuse survivors
“The Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco (‘RCASF’) announced today (Aug. 21) the filing of a voluntary petition for bankruptcy relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The filing is necessary to manage and resolve the more than 500 lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse brought against RCASF under California Assembly Bill 218, which allowed decades-old claims to be filed by December 31, 2022, that would otherwise have been time-barred. Chapter 11 is a court-supervised process that allows each claim to be evaluated on its merits, provides transparency into the proceedings and into RCASF’s finances, and gives claimants a voice in the outcome.” – By Archdiocese of San Francisco on Cision PRNewswire
- San Francisco Archdiocese declares bankruptcy amid hundreds of lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse, By Olga Rodriguez, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter
Message from Pope Francis
For his August prayer intention, Pope Francis asks us to approach the Church and each other with a mission of prayer, charity and service.
“Let us remember that the Church always has difficulties,” the Pope said, explaining that the Church goes through crises because she is alive; not like the dead who do not go through crises.
In a statement accompanying the Pope’s prayer intention, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which prepares “The Pope Video” each month, explains that in the recent letter Pope Francis wrote to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, in which he refused his offer of resignation, the Holy Father acknowledged the crisis in the Church brought about by abuse cases, emphasizing the need for reform.
“A reform… does not consist in words but in attitudes that have the courage to face the crisis, to assume reality whatever the consequences may be. And every reform begins with oneself. The reform in the Church was made by men and women who were not afraid to enter into crisis and let themselves be reformed by the Lord,” the Pope said.
Watch the Pope, here.
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