US Catholic Faith in Real Life

A human church

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The difficulties of being in the church aren’t necessarily a bad thing, theologian Diana Hayes writes.

Guest blog by Diana Hayes

As an African American female theologian, I have found the church to be always a challenge in both positive and negative ways.

I was called into the church at 31 to my consternation and wonder but have never regretted that decision. I “keep the faith” through daily prayer, either the breviary or other forms of the hours, going to Mass at a lively Black Catholic parish (Christ Our Hope—a mixture of African, African American, Caribbean, and other cultures) and by the interaction I have with my students and those I meet at lectures and workshops I give who both challenge and confirm my faith.

It is painfully challenging to find the right response for a young woman considering leaving the church for its often negative response to women’s pain, but I attempt to encourage her to give it another chance. I try to help people see beyond the stern and forbidding façade to the fallible human beings that are truly the church, in all of its mystery and struggle. Their stories give me hope and I pray I give hope in return.

I love this church even when I am most upset with it and believe my presence in it, a constant reminder as a Black woman of its failures and need for repentance, will help it to continue walking the path of Christ for centuries to come.

Guest blogger by Diana L. Hayes is a professor of systematic theology at Georgetown University.

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.