An 80-year-old woman, from Clonakilty in Cork, is asking the “faithful women of Ireland” to boycott Sunday Mass next month “to let the Vatican and the Irish church know that women are tired of being treated as second-class citizens."
Jennifer Sleeman, whose son is a monk, told the Irish Times that she is calling on the women of Ireland to “join your sisters on Sunday, September 26. On that one day boycott Mass. Stay at home and pray for change. We are the majority. We may have been protesting individually but unremarked on, but together we have strength and our absence, the empty pews, will be noticed.
“Whatever change you long for, recognition, ordination, the end of celibacy, which is another means of keeping women out, join with your sisters and let the hierarchy know by your absence that the days of an exclusively male-dominated church are over.”
Of the sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church, she said: “I find I belong to an organization that seems caught in a time warp, run by old celibate men divorced from the realities of life, with a lonely priesthood struggling with the burden of celibacy where rules and regulations have more weight than the original message of community and love."
She chose September 26 as the date at it is her 81st birthday. The devoted Catholic says that when she looks at her grandchildren and children she can see no future for the Church as it stands.
She said: “Some of the grandchildren go through the rites of sacraments, but seldom, if ever, visit a church afterwards. Some of my children are actively looking for a meaningful spiritual life, but they do not find it in the Catholic Church…I must except my eldest son who is a monk in Glenstal Abbey, another place that helps me keep some shreds of faith.”
Her son, Father Simon, is supportive of her ideas and the proposed action on the September 26.
Mrs Sleeman has recently being attending the Methodist Church 150 years in Clonakilty. She said that celebrating Mass at the Church is a “joyful and welcoming occasion.” She began experimenting with Churches by attending the Church of Ireland Church. She said “I felt so welcome in the first two and just wondered what I was doing in ‘my own church’.”
She said “I am not a cradle Catholic. I chose to join as an adult helped by meeting a wonderful priest . . . but I now wonder did I do the right thing?...Somehow I have grown up but the church has not."