A group of women who have given their lives to serving the Catholic Church in County Clare say they were hurt, upset and ignored following a pastoral letter calling for male only deacons to serve the Diocese of Killaloe.
Earlier this month Bishop Kieran O’Reilly shelved the plans, saying he would “not now proceed with the introduction of the Permanent Deaconate at this time in the diocese.” Weeks earlier in a pastoral letter he asked for “men, married or single, and who are already involved in some aspect of lay ministry or leadership in the community,” to apply for the position of deacon. No women could apply.
Among the jobs listed for these men were charity work, liturgy work, and becoming ministers of the Eucharist, roles currently being undertaken in the main by women in the diocese.
At a recent forum these women asked for their voices to be heard and a more inclusive deaconate to be developed.
“In 2014 is it appropriate that they bring in another male only ministry? What impression does it give of the church?” asked Kathleen MacDonald from Cross.
MacDonald is a coordinator of the sacraments, prepares creative liturgies, gives retreats to Confirmation children as well as being on the pastoral council and financial committee in her local parish.
Rita O’Brien from Scarriff, a midwife by profession, was hoping to do a Master' Degree in pastoral care and was excited at the prospect of getting more involved in the Church as a layperson until she saw the letter.
“This was an ad for something I knew I had a vocation to do and have the academic ability to study for,” she said. “I was deeply upset on a personal level.”
Martina Meskell from Clonlara, the facilitator of the meeting, said the women were not radicals or even feminists.
“We do not want any negativity or divisiveness over this,” she said, adding that they just wanted the pastoral plan implemented to include everyone irrespective of gender. We are all ordinary women who give our time voluntarily because we care and have a strong faith.”