Dear Feminist Religious Sisters,
We need you. We really need you. We’re young Catholic feminist women, and we’re lost.
We don’t need to explain how heart-breaking and disappointing the Church’s teachings on women are because we know you understand. We don’t need to describe the struggles of simply existing as a Catholic woman in the Church because you have been living it since before we were born. Just know we’re finally old enough to recognize the sexist and androcentric baloney too.
We want to be Catholic, and we desire to make our religion a place every woman can flourish spiritually and follow God’s call for their lives. To do so, we recognize we have to stay and change the Church from the inside out. But Sister, this internal and external fight to be a Catholic feminist, especially in ministry, gets exhausting and spiritually draining. We don’t want to keep struggling and pursuing an equal place in the Church if the magisterium is fixed on withholding the equality God already gave us. To embrace and be embraced by this so-called ‘Catholic family,’ it is essential and nonnegotiable that our Church values us in our entirety. Not make us feel valued, but authentically value us in every arena men are men are valued – leadership, family life, work life, ministry, and as theologians and academics. That’s why we need you to embrace us.
Our American culture is another dissatisfying home because it refuses to balance spirituality, community, and work. There’s an abundance of moral relativism, vast consumerism, and superficiality. This culture has been depleted of meaning and purpose. As women, we are sexualized and told we’re supposed to be empowered by it. We live in a culture where rape is often viewed as women’s fault. We get paid less than men (no matter how many people deny it). If we have to walk alone at night, we’re afraid of losing our lives or being sexually assaulted. We are portrayed as objects in the media…objects. We get cat-called on the street. On public transportation systems we are grabbed, masturbated in front of, and have unwelcomed creepy-eyes thrust upon us. This culture tells us to buy things to make us happy, and to look an unrealistic way to be loved. It’s unfulfilling, and leaves a gaping hole in our souls. There’s a deep spiritual hunger in us that’s not being filled. That’s why our female friends choose social justice activism in place of spirituality.
We need you. You are what we call #goals – because we want to be like you. We’re struggling to find feminist role models who will guide and support us in our theological and ministerial journeys. Your faith-filled feminist spirit proves feminism is a holy way to navigate the world, which is why we need to know you exist. Teach us how to own a feminism stemming from God.
We need you. Reteach us our Catholic faith because strong female voices and perspectives are often silenced or completely absent. We desperately want to connect to God, but there’s this huge patriarchal wall in the way. Can you show us around it, or help us crash through it?
We need you. Ironically, help us with sexuality. We don’t have many progressive and understanding Catholics with women’s bodies helping us make sense of it all. We don’t know how to appreciate and love our bodies, or use them in a truly Godly way. It’s a challenge to figure out how to be sexual, and still see ourselves in imago dei.
This is how you can reach out to us: use social media, create internship programs so we can get to know you and see how you live out your faith, be spiritual mentors and directors, ask us to volunteer in your ministries, and invite us to gather in your spaces; If you can, provide a job for us in ministry where we can journey in our feminism without fear, and talk about your life experiences honestly and openly.
You have a grasp on how to live above the androcentric nonsense in the Church, and the unfulfilling cultural garbage – we need you to help us do the same. We need your help so we can teach our possible future kids a Catholicism which is authentic to the Gospel. We need you to help us live in peace with our faith, our womanhood, and our God. Help keep us Catholic.
We’re not saying you’re perfect, we’re just saying we need you.
Young Catholic Feminist Women Everywhere
Tinamarie Stolz is a campus minister, but for the summer is Sister Joan Chittister and the Benedictine of Erie’s intern. She recently graduated from the University of Dayton’s Campus Ministry Graduate Assistant program with a Masters in Theological Studies. She has been working in women’s ministry since 2012, completed a year of service as a food pantry manager with Christ the King Service Corps in Detroit, Michigan, and loves elephants.