US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Envisioning community

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The way this cradle Catholic looks at the world, she sees community all around her.

Guest blog by Joan Krebs

My first response to the question of how I keep the faith as a woman in the church and the one to which I keep returning is a paraphrase of Elizabeth Barrett Browning: "Let me count the ways." On further reflection I find it boils down to a very few. 

First, being catholic is in my blood; I have a catholic identity; it's part of me; it's a calling. I look at life with catholic eyes—not Roman Catholic but pilgrim church eyes; not Roman Catholic but people of God eyes; not Roman Catholic but catholic with a small "c." In this sense I'm incapable of not-being catholic.

This vision was born and bred in me. I'm the daughter of a "mixed marriage." Mom was Catholic, and Dad was Baptist. Not allowed to threaten the sacredness of the sanctuary or of the sacrament, the priest was forced to witness their marriage in the rectory. They kept their promise to raise children as Catholics. Both were intimate with deep poverty. Practicality often trumped "shoulds" and honesty trumped appearances.

Marks of their keeping-of-faith left deep impressions on me, tightly weaving the context out of which my faith persists: loyalty, solidarity, friendship, openness to what-is, hope, making-do while resisting, and "waiting in patience," as Simone Weil meant it in Gravity and Grace--like an insect with its antennae out, actively waiting. 

Second, an African mantra illustrates keeping the faith for me: "I am because we are." "I" depend on "we" as "we" depends on "I." The "we" is needy and so is the "I." Luckily (or not), I've absorbed what scripture meant by vine/branches and head/body and "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me." Again, in this sense I'm incapable of not-being catholic. "Lord to whom [where] shall I go? You have the words of eternal life." 

A third way is kin to the second. I rejoice in being a catholic woman of faith because worldwide there is an immense and growing number of others just like me. We're seeking, finding, and supporting one another through forums like this, in base communities, in social networks, and in spiritual networks of all kinds.

We've begun to find our voices and are not afraid to use them with courage, knowing we'll be supported and one voice will grow exponentially. We've begun to proclaim that support and to rely on it. Together we're discerning the Spirit in many signs of the times and together we're opening ourselves to Her. How can I not keep the faith when others depend on me and I depend on them for these things?  

There's a sibling to the two above: One sign of our times is the number of men who've come to realize that a woman's baptism and anointing with oil is absolutely equal with that of a man. In growing numbers they are standing with and for women in courage and solidarity. In growing numbers they resist the culture of superiority in which they were raised to embrace their sisters in equality.  

I revel being among the communion of saints in an immense "cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1).

Guest blogger Joan Krebs is a reader living in Glenview, Illinois and an associate of the Congregaton of St. Joseph. She facilitates discussions on the spirituality of solidarity at The Well Spirituality Center in La Grange Park, Illinois.   

As a supplement of the January 2011 special issue on women, U.S. Catholic is asking guest bloggers, “How do you keep the faith as a woman in the church?” To submit your answer (about 500 words), e-mail

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.