I recently recalled an interaction I had with a man during undergrad. It was after a class where we discussed the origins of feminist theology and the truth of God’s love for an equitable and just society where women are not bogged down by patriarchy and misogyny. An Op-Ed had just come out in the more conservative newspaper on campus about how women would never be ordained to priesthood or diaconate because they were meant to be handmaidens operating in the background of society and supporting their men. I was so upset when I read this, ranting to my best friend in an elevator. The auther of the article happened to be in the elevator with us. As we left the elevator to get coffee, the author pushed me out the elevator door and up against the wall and yelled into my face: “Shut up, you stupid little girl. You are just a woman; you don’t get to have a choice; men decide for you.”
I’m sure the interaction lasted much longer than that one sentence, but I froze. I was afraid. I’ve spent the last several years thinking of all the things I would have said starting with “don’t touch me” and ending with “actually the first witness to the truth of Christianity was a woman named Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the apostles, and Christianity is built on the choice and voice of a woman, so perhaps women do have agency and women are, in fact, people.” After the experience of having someone tell me to be silent, I wondered if all women felt this way or if I was alone. Was I the only one heartbroken by a Church I loved, but didn’t love me or teach people to love me back?
Fast forward to last Thursday night when over 150 people gathered to celebrate Mary Magdalene. Coming from the microcosm of a Jesuit college campus where everyone ranges from age 18-22, I was struck by the intergenerational attendance of the event. What a gift it was to see that women have seemingly always been fighting this fight to be seen, heard, welcomed, and recognized since before the struggle ever entered my world. Through the various zoom boxes, I picked up on feelings of grief, loss, joy, and gratitude. Most importantly, I felt the hope. Hope for a Church that will see Mary Magdalene and perhaps see us - the women who are working towards lifting Mary’s voice and each other’s.
I would be remiss not to say thank you.
Thank you to the women who have set the stage for Catholic feminism. Thank you to the women who help me believe in the efficacy of the synod. Thank you to the women who have given me space to process my grief and hurt. Thank you to the women who continue to remind me that the Church is not a hopeless place. Thank you for giving me the best and brightest reasons to stay.
After the Mary Magdalene celebration, I thought back to the interaction with that guy and finally felt like I wasn’t alone and that somehow, we might all have memory where someone tried to silence us. What a blessing it was to have been a part of room of women who’d seen so many phases and corners of our beloved Church and who could remind each other that not one of them was or will ever be alone. I pray that one day our memories are not of being silenced, but of being celebrated.