A woman of the church

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A diverse parish and the body of Christ have helped one woman has found her place not in but as part of the church.

Guest blog by Kathleen P. Hockey

Sometimes I am not sure I keep the faith. During those times with a flip wave of the hand I say, “I’m done with this!” I rant and rave, badmouth the new conservative trends in the church, and sometimes (horrors) I skip mass in a sort of twisted statement of discontent. I ask myself why I should be active in a church that spends so much time on the issues of liturgical semantics and sexual mores, while at the same time attempting to convince the world of the virtue of celibacy. What about poverty, alienation, and genocide?

Being corrected for my unorthodox opinions, directed challenges, and alignment with the so-called cafeteria Catholics that are really the most alienated from the community is not fun.

Yet, in spite of these times of disgust I find myself volunteering, participating, and thinking the struggle is worth it. The church, after all, is more than institutional majesty and a few self-proclaimed keepers of orthodoxy.

The faith community where I worship has no less than 30 ministries, most of which exist to serve of the poor, sick, grieving, and incarcerated. The pastor has delegated all parish administrative responsibilities to deacons, laymen, and laywomen while he spiritually ministers to the faithful—and not so faithful. He is so well liked that three retired priests—one conservative, one liberal, and one physically challenged—have made their home at our parish. Having four priests of such different persuasions and gifts provides a model of religious diversity. Needless to say our church is full on Sunday with women and men serving at the altar, the veiled and jean-clad all kneeling together worshiping in genuine camaraderie.

This kind of parish community is why I remain faithful. It gives me hope that in spite of the polarization and injustice so often talked about and bemoaned, quietly in many corners of the church world tolerance, equality, and charity prevail.

There is one more thing that keeps me faithful. It is the realization that our church is a global church. While I am safe and sound in the United States, both male and female Catholics in other countries are being suppressed or exterminated for the faith. Now that is faith, being willing to die rather than not be Catholic. It makes the pettiness here seem downright sinful.

Remaining faithful means I must define myself differently than “a woman in the church.” I am not a woman in the church; I am a woman of the church. “In the church” means someone or something else is the church and I am in it. “Of the church” means as a Catholic I am part of the essence of church, the people of God. With that definition being a woman doesn’t matter regardless of what some may think.


Kathleen P. Hockey is a social worker, author, and speaker from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her website is www.kathleen-hockey.com.

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 onlineeditor@uscatholic.org.

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.