Gifts of women appreciated - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Gifts of women appreciated

I recently had the interesting experience of meeting with our diocesan Women’s Commission. During the meeting, the leadership team led the commission, including its newest members, through the tough work of deciding their priorities — where they would focus their time and considerable energy.

Among the elements of the meeting that impressed me was the positive spirit, even the ease, with which they performed their task. It was a cooperative venture. Members were ready to share their thoughts. Members listened attentively to one another. This interested observer (and occasional participant) was impressed by the way possibilities were raised, considered and decided. I had the sense that a team was at work and establishing directions that pleased everyone.

All of that came about because there were joined around the table the talent, faith, imagination and love for Christ and the church of some wonderful women. (There also are two men on the commission, but they and three of the women members were unable to attend this session). I would add that all of these gifts were beautifully tapped and brought together under the leadership of Betty Rae Simmons, who chaired the program. The process she used was inviting and effective. To me it seemed as fine a method as I’ve seen in a long time.

Our Women’s Commission was born following the issuance of “Fire in the Thornbush,” our pastoral letter on Women in the Church published in April 1982. It received new impetus following our Diocesan Synod which concluded in 1993. As with all such endeavors, there have been ups and downs along the way. Some of the downs resulted from necessary budget cuts that we’ve had to make.

But the goal of all the years is well summed up in the commission’s mission statement: “to lead, educate and voice issues in church and society, especially that impact women and girls”.

In recent times our commission has been involved in such issues as domestic violence, spirituality in the workplace, development of their Web site and Women in Leadership. They will likely keep interest in these issues even as they consider other possibilities for the future.

I want to mention to you one exciting initiative the commission is planning: a prayer retreat for women to be held at the Dugan Center of St. Mary’s Parish in downtown Rochester on Oct. 14. It will center on the participants’ experiences of prayer and offer some reflections on ways of prayer that Christian people through the ages have found helpful. If you would like to participate in the day, you would be most welcome.

If you have interests or concerns that you would like to share with the commission (and I know they would love to hear them); if you would like to know more about the commission and its membership or want to assist in its work; if you would like further information about the prayer retreat for women or any other commission initiative, you may contact Shannon Loughlin, diocesan liaison to the Women’s Commission, by calling her at 585/328-3228, ext. 1218, or 800/388-7177; or e-mailing her at

You can access the commission’s Web site at

We are truly blessed to have such a gifted and dedicated group at the service of the women — and all of us — in our local church.

Peace to all.

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