Friday, May 26, 2006

[Temporary] Consecrated lay women?

That's what it sounds like. A new ministry for women in the Diocese of Broken Bay, Australia (via the Tablet).
A PLAN for celibate women to work full time in an Australian diocese and be answerable to the bishop was not a “back door” to women’s ordination, according to the cleric proposing the ministry.
Bishop David Walker of Broken Bay said the “ecclesial women” would not be Religious, like nuns, as they would not take a vow of poverty. But they would be celibate, though they need not live in community or make a lifelong commitment.

He announced the plan in the May edition of Broken Bay News, saying the project was well grounded in the current teaching of the Church and was a way to recognise and include what Pope John Paul II called the “feminine genius” in the life and leadership of the Catholic community.

“I would hope this vocation would attract single women, who are practising their faith, feel a need to be more involved in their local Church, and want to embody it in a consecrated way of life,” the bishop wrote. “It is a vocation that could attract young women finishing school or their professional studies. It may also attract older women who see it as a way to live out their commitment to the Lord.”

He stressed that this vocation ought not be interpreted in the light of other vocations, such as religious life, diaconate or priesthood, but defined on its own terms, even though aspects of it may relate to things present in other religious vocations. As this was a new vocation in the Church, those involved in it in its early stages would contribute significantly to how it unfolded.

“What I’m trying to do is to establish a group of ministers who will serve within the local Church, and be part of the ministry of the bishop,” Bishop Walker told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Religion Report” on 17 May. Broken Bay diocese, which takes in the northern suburbs of Sydney and the rapidly growing New South Wales Central Coast to the north of Australia’s biggest city, was formed 20 years ago when the Archdiocese of Sydney was split.

Asked why a new group was needed, Bishop Walker said he had to acknowledge that many young people were not moving in the direction of traditional vocations, such as religious sisters, and other areas of apostolic life. “So I think we constantly need to be offering new ways of life which may attract young people.”

Bishop Walker said that, as committed people, the women would be able to fit into many of the works of the diocese, its agencies, schools and parishes in a number of pastoral areas.
(Emphasis added.) "Ecclesial women" just doesn't have the same ring. And no, church lady doesn't quite cut it either. :-) Jimmy Akin had carried this last week. The comments there are a bit negative. I agree this sounds a little strange, but that isn't reason to diss it. And maybe they're not consecrated virgins because, well, like it or not, unmarried Catholic women [and men] these days might not all be virgins? Could almost be a diocean institute of consecrated life, like the Apostles of the Interior Life, except for the temporary promise of celibacy. So, temporary consecration. Why not?

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