Catholic writer: October has been a major month for Catholic women

REUTERS Deborah Amell touches the statue in the likeness of Kateri Tekakwitha after the Mass of Thanksgiving in honor of … Continued


Deborah Amell touches the statue in the likeness of Kateri Tekakwitha after the Mass of Thanksgiving in honor of Tekakwitha at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, New York, Oct. 21, 2012. Pope created seven new saints on Sunday, including Tekakwitha, a sixteenth-century convert known as “Lily of the Mohawks”, the first Native American to be canonized, as the Roman Catholic Church reaches out to its global flock to rebuff encroaching secularism.

Designated as the month of the Holy Rosary, Catholics everywhere were encouraged to pray with special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in October. Catholics believe that she is the most exalted among women, the only creature God created without fault other than her son, Jesus Christ.

The month also began with the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux, a 19th century saint who died at 24. She is considered to be the patron of missions and was such a beloved figure that the church responded to huge public demand for her canonization and elevated her to sainthood just 28 years after her death. Known by most Catholics as the “Little Flower of Jesus,” the most famous image of her shows a young habited woman with a delicate yet wry smile illuminating her shadowy eyes.

October marked the feasts of other important Catholic women, such as Teresa of Avila, a doctor of the church and a socialite nun born to an elite Spanish family. Hardly docile, Catholics laugh that she once in a moment of frustration told God in prayer, “No wonder you have so few friends!” She was such an intriguing figure that Marcelle Auclair, co-foundress of Marie-Claire, asked permission to enter the Carmelite cloisters in Spain to gather more information about her life. In a rare move, the Holy See granted permission, and Auclair spent two years completely emerged with the nuns of the order Avila founded. Upon re-emerging, the biography she wrote of Avila tells that Auclair admired “in her an essentially modern woman: inventive, practical, gallant and intrepid, with tremendous organizational capacities, whose genius permitted her to break through the restrictions of her time.”


Candles are lit for Kateri Tekakwitha as her devotion is celebrated by the Catholic faithful Oct. 21, 2012 at the St. Francis Xavier Church in Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada.

Especially significant, however, was the elevation to sainthood of two American women on Sunday by Pope Benedict: Kateri Tekakwitha and Marianne Pope. In fact, of the seven made saints, only two were Americans, and both were women. American Catholic women were reminded that the first American-born saint ever to be canonized, Elizabeth Ann Seton, was also a woman. Like Avila, she was a spiritual entrepreneur; she was a socialite, highly educated, and the founder of a religious order. American female converts often choose her as a patron saint, as she too was a convert, but also because she was a bold and modern woman in her time.

Tekakwitha is an especially beloved Catholic figure. At the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washingon, D.C., this past weekend, her statue was adorned with candles and lilies. Catholics lovingly refer to her as the “Lily of the Mohawks” for her gentle and diplomatic presence amid tumultuous relations between the Native Americans and the Europeans settlers. Of Tekakwitha’s elevation to sainthood on Sunday, Pope Benedict praised the “courage of her vocation” and entrusted her with the “renewal of the faith…in all of North America.”(As an aside, the Basilica is the eighth largest religious structure in the world and devoted entirely to Mary. A plaque in the minaret, donated by the male group, the Knights of Columbus, vows of their eternal devotion to the Virgin.)

Finally, October saw the first feast day of the newly beatified Pope John Paul II. Adored by Catholic women, Pope John Paul the Great was a champion of the rights and dignity of women. In her article “Pope John Paul II, Feminists, Women, and the Church,” theologian Janet Smith writes, “There are many injustices in this world; one of the greater among them is the perception among feminists that the Catholic Church and Pope John Paul II are not friends of women.” Indeed, Pope John Paul II was a champion of the legal, sexual, and social rights of women.

His respect for women can be seen vividly in the conclusion of his apostolic letter, Mulerius Dignitatem, (On the Dignity of Women), where he writes:

Recently, there has been a proliferation of articles and opinion-editorials devoted to the issue of “female ordination” or women’s rights within the Catholic Church. The suggestion seems to be that we are oppressed and marginalized within our faith. Yet after a month like this, lay Catholic women like myself are left wondering why. In our view, our sex has taken its rightful place within the ranks of theologians, doctors, and saints of the church. Like Blessed Kateri Tekawitha, we are spiritual leaders, respected and revered as much as any man.

Ashley E. McGuire

is the founder and editor-in-chief of

. She is also senior fellow at the Catholic Association.

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    The RCC does not treat women equal to men. They use women to a point to enhance control of the membership but still haveing the women toe the line after a point. Just look at the good American nuns. Now look at some of the Protestant religions and their women. Who is kidding who?


    You are still second-class citizens in that medieval institution you call a church. You’ll never sit in the councils of old (allegedly) celibate men as they decide what you can do with your body and your life.

  • Charles R

    Ms. McGuire
    I respectfully disagree with you on women’s ordination. Women in our Roman Catholic Church (RCC) have achieved great things against the odds because the Holy Spirit in-spir-ed (literally “in spirit-ed”) them. There is no basis in the gospels or authentic Pauline epistles for excluding women from ministry. The RCC priesthood was created by men, not Jesus of Nazareth. He was a Jew with no intention of creating another religion. We are heirs of a Jewish Messianic sect which was transformed into a Greco-Roman religion. Jesus had many women followers, several supported his ministry financially. Mary of Magdala was his student and close companion. She was the first witness of his resurrection and commissioned by Jesus as “the apostle to the apostles” in John 20:17 “Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold me, for I haven’t yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brothers, and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

    Paul’s authentic and definitive statement on the equality of all in God’s eyes is from Galatians 3:27-28 “27 for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” A primary argument for men being priests is that only they can image Christ since he was a man. But here Paul tells us if we are “baptized into Christ we have put on Christ”!!! If women have put on Christ surely they can image Christ! To deny it would be to deny Christ’s baptism.

    Additionally Paul mentions many women as equal coworkers in evangelization in his letters as well, underling that all are equal in Christ. The passages were he restricts women are held by many scholars to be suspect as not written by him but in his name by later writers when male domination was increasing in the late 1st and early 2nd century churches. I don’t think the ban on women’s ordination has a leg to stand on scriptural

  • amelia45

    “Adored by Catholic women, Pope John Paul the Great was a champion of the rights and dignity of women.”

    Oh, please. As a Catholic woman, I am offended.

  • Catholic militant

    Then join one of the protestant schismatic sects, if you admire them so much.


    Catholic militant, face the fact that not all RC’s view their religion the same. To tell a person to leave a organization account they do not agree with you is wrong. Would you say that to any member of government? Why not? Open your mind and think for your self then being controled by another.

  • tieege

    Thank you Charles. As a male, full-time employee and pastoral minister, I couldn’t have stated it more elequently. In Peace and Goodwill was a perfect closing. Sometimes I lose hope over the polarization. A return to the past, or to remain in the past is assured failure. The good women and men of our faith community will not tolerate this. Nor will those who are looking in to see what we have to offer. I have been a youth minister along with other parish ministries over these pat 40 years. Two generations of young people have no desire to be a part of this model of Church.