Today, by happy chance, we celebrate Women’s Day in South Africa. Of course I am sure that it is a bonus for all of us that we will celebrate the Public Holiday on Monday! But today offers us an opportunity to reflect on the significance and respect that are owed to women all over the world. It is a sad fact of life that both historically, and even today, women have been oppressed and treated unfairly both by societies and individuals, and even by the Catholic Church. Even although there have been gradual improvements in the status of women in most countries in the world, it remains a dreadful evil that even in our own country women are often deprived of their rights, and not treated with the dignity that is their due. This is something that none of us can turn our eyes from or to pretend that this is not the case.
I am well aware that our parish at Holy Redeemer is served so well by countless women who give of their time and talents in so many areas of our life. It is good to remember that Pope Francis has spoken out strongly on the need for the role of women within the Church to be strengthened and enhanced. Just a few months ago he wrote about “the indispensable contribution of women in society, in particular with their sensitivity and intuition toward the other, the weak and the unprotected.” He said he has been heartened that “many women share some pastoral responsibilities with priests in looking after persons, families and groups” and he said he had hoped that “the spaces for a more diffuse and incisive presence in the church be expanded.”
Pope Francis also emphasized the centrality of mothers within the family environment, and their gift and task of handing on their faith in a loving and gentle manner. He stated that families benefit from women’s “gifts of delicateness, special sensitivity and tenderness.” He then continued by stating that “The presence of women in a domestic setting turns out to be so necessary for the transmission to future generations of solid moral principles and the very transmission of the faith”.
It is good for us therefore, as we celebrate Women’s Day, to give thanks to God for all the women of our parish who offer us living models of faith and love both within the Church and in their personal and family lives. We also need to commit ourselves to treating all women with the respect that is their right as persons who are made in the image and likeness of God. One of the remarkable aspects of the life of Jesus is that, in a time and place where women were often treated dreadfully, he manifested to all women the greatest respect and dignity, and that he gave them friendship and love. May our parish seek to model its treatment of all women an example offered by Our Redeemer.
Fr Gerard, CSsR