We, the women of the Women’s Study Group of V.O.T.F. in the Diocese of Bridgeport, humbly and gratefully acknowledge our foremothers and peers who led the way for us.
*Pictures: Esther, Mary and Elizabeth, Mary Magdalene, Joan of Arc, Little Flower, Catherine of Siena, Hildegard of Bingen, Katherine Drexel
2nd row: Dorothy Day, Thea Bowman, Joan Chittister, Theresa Kane, Louise Akers, Elizabeth Johnson, Bishop Patricia Fresen
Background: Initial Meeting
On October 17, 2007 twelve women from our affiliate gathered for the first time at the home of Marge Hickey to create the Women's Study group. Our group was made up of previous and current VOTF/Bpt. women board members interested in creating a safe space for women to prioritize our issues as women. We gathered to celebrate women, share our stories, and to reflect on goal #3, bringing about structural change-for women in the church.
Our meeting opened by honoring a woman who had gone before us. Each woman prayerfully lit a candle in memory of a female who inspired her by her courage and love. We spoke of saints, teachers, mothers, sisters, daughters. We spoke of women still with us, and those we had lost. Afterwards each woman told her story of what was good and/or difficult as a Catholic woman in the church today uniting us with a bond of understanding and commitment to each other challenging sexism.
Since that time five years ago, we have met, prayed, studied, and taken action jointly on behalf of educating ourselves, and women and men of VOTF Bridgeport on the value and dignity of women and our contributions. Our monthly meetings continue to nourish our spirits, and provide us with the opportunity to reflect on the "signs of the times" that need most urgently to be brought to the attention of our community at large about the injustices facing women, and our role in ending them. We are grateful to have each other as sisters. We are grateful to have a space to honor women and to bring our gifts to VOTF and our community.
The Women’s Study Group of Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport seeks to identify and discern issues affecting women in the Church through friendship and shared spirituality. We seek to be a powerful voice to educate and to empower the larger community on all issues impacting women in order to challenge structural injustices and to promote women’s full equality in our Church.
Initiatives to Inform the VOTF Community
To date, we have brought our concerns and the knowledge we have gained to the VOTF membership by suggesting speakers for several of monthly meetings. Additionally, our group has participated in our Annual Conference at Fairfield University.
Three years ago we sponsored a Saturday morning event for women with the goal of informing them about the visitation of communities of U.S. sisters by Vatican officials and the investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Sharing and a lively discussion concluded the morning.
On April 19, 2012, the Women’s Group presented the film Pink Smoke Over the Vatican to the general membership of VOTF. A record number of people attended the screening and were moved by the stories of women who, followed the ministry to which they felt called, at great personal sacrifice.
Catholic Women's Leadership Event
The Women's Study Group of Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport presented a program on Catholic Women's Leadership in an Era of Modern Patriarchy: Voices of Hope on Saturday, April 13, 2013, with Jamie Manson as guest speaker.
Manson based her talk on her experience as a woman in the Church. Always drawn to the call to ministry, she received a Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she was inspired by her mentor, Sr. Margaret Farley, who presented Catholicism's sacramental view of life as well as a belief in an inclusive Church. After receiving her degree, Manson worked in a New York City parish, where she found her most meaningful ministry in the soup kitchen, a eucharistic experience. She related the story of her spiritual journey, telling of her experiences of institutional patriarchy, offering her own creative ways of challenging sexism, and offering by example a call for women to find their own path forward. In 2012 she was invited to participate in the general meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), where she felt she was truly living in the "church of her dreams" among those prophetic women religious. She concluded that these women, who are speaking truth to power, represent the hope of a future church for all, especially those who are being marginalized by the patriarchy.
The Women’s Group is exploring options to expand our group so that we can involve more women and communicate to a broader audience. It would be ideal to form women’s groups in our parishes, but because Bishop Lori has banned VOTF from meeting on church property, we have been denied that opportunity. We hope to have a plan in place by September.
Catholic Women in a Man's Church:
Should We Stay or Should We Go?
In February 2014 Angela Bonavoglia published this open letter in the Huffington Post: "For Pope Francis: A To-Do List on Women". The Women's Group invited her to speak at the November 2014 meeting of VOTF-Bridgeport. Ms. Bonavoglia agreed, and the well-attended meeting proved to be a lively one. Here, by permission of the author, is the text of her November remarks.
If you are interested in participating in a Women’s Group, please let Marge Hickey know – firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, the Women’s Group page on our VOTF website will offer articles and resources for further exploration.