Ukrainian Catholics look to expand the role of women

Bishop David Motiuk

Bishop David Motiuk

July 11, 2016
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton is reflecting on how to better integrate women into the life of the Church. At the invitation of Bishop David Motiuk, women have been studying the issue and submitting proposals.

"We want a more prominent role within the Church because I think we can do more," says Jayne Buryn, chair of the Eparchial Pastoral Council, a mostly lay body that advises Motiuk.

Women in the eparchy have also expressed interest in the female diaconate "because that's a tradition that goes way back to the early Church," added Buryn. "And so we are watching to see what happens."

In May, Pope Francis announced he will create a commission to study the possibility of allowing women to serve as deacons in the Catholic Church.

Church historians have said there is abundant evidence that women served as deacons in the early centuries of the Church. They helped particularly in baptizing women, when the practice of Baptism called for full immersion of the person's naked body in water.

Motiuk said he started the conversation on women's roles as part of the eparchy's 25-year Eparchial Pastoral Plan. His goal is "to come up with some concrete ministries or pastoral norms inviting the Church to engage women more within the Church."

The bishop spoke with the Ukrainian Catholic Women's League and "I invited them to reflect with me on the current role of women in the Church and what might be some future role that we haven't explored or haven't identified or where women can have a greater role within the Church."

The UCWL consulted with some of their branches throughout Alberta and provided feedback to Motiuk who then explored the issue with his Council of Priests. Next in line to discuss the feedback is the Eparchial Pastoral Council.

"Over the last 30 years the role of women has expanded and intensified," Motiuk pointed out. "The Second Vatican Council produced a different understanding of women."

The diaconate hasn't been part of the eparchy's discussion on the role of women, but the bishop says he is interested in the pope's comments on the women's diaconate.

"I would welcome a further study on what was the actual role in the early Church for women deacons, including this aspect of their ordination, why it fell into disuse and what a female deacon role would look like today," he said.

Women are involved in the Church and lay organizations. "A good number of parishes would have women as chairs of their parish pastoral councils."

"The chair of our Eparchial Pastoral Council is a woman. I would say that even within Edmonton a good number, maybe even the majority of cantors or choir directors, are women. (They have) a great role within catechetical ministry in the parishes."

Motiuk said many of those who do hospital ministry, visit seniors' homes or go into private homes are women.

"So when we think back to the Second Vatican Council, these are huge innovations, these are huge responses to pastoral needs within parishes and more and more women are fulfilling those roles. "

NEW ROLES

However, Motiuk sees new roles for women emerging from the consultation, including greater involvement in the care of seniors, in palliative care and in educating grandchildren in the faith.

As many mothers work today, grandmothers must help their daughters in teaching their grandchildren how to pray and foster a relationship with God, the bishop said.

Motiuk said the eparchy might have some concrete vision for the expanded role of women in the eparchy "before the year is out."

Buryn said that in previous years, women were mostly involved in looking after church décor, cooking and providing catering for church gatherings. "We still do that, of course, but there are some ladies that want to do more."

PROFESSIONAL WOMEN

"There are a lot of professional women now in both the Roman Catholic and the Ukrainian Catholic Church - pharmacists, lawyers and teachers - who want to be involved in more than just the previous roles."

These women are looking at serving as eucharistic ministers and, if possible, deacons, she said. "We are really interested in what the Holy Father said about the diaconate for women and we are looking at maybe creating catechesis programs for children and adults in the Church and that would be an extended role for women.

"We want to involve the laity in more of the liturgical and theological aspects."