Sr Inigo Joachim SSA, Dwarka, New Delhi, India
interview of Sr. Inigo, SSA by M. Amaladoss, S.J October, 2012)
Dear Sr. Inigo, The Bishops’ Synod on New Evangelization is taking place in
Inigo: The women have a very important role in evangelization. They are the
first communicators of the faith to their children. They also witness to their
faith in daily life in various ways. Today
they also engage in preaching publicly. But the Church often ignores them.
The preparatory document for the Synod does not refer to women at all.
There is no doubt that everywhere in the world the women are considered the
weaker sex and dependent on the men. This
is true also in the Church.
is this also true in the life of Jesus and in the early Church?
the contrary…. The women who associated with Jesus were empowered women. They
collaborated with Jesus as equals of the male disciples. The woman of
did not Jesus choose specially twelve male apostles to proclaim the good news?
Inigo: Not at all. Jesus' Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20, Mk.
) to preach the Gospel
and make disciples throughout the world was given to the entire church, both
male and female. Luke 24:33-53 shows that the Commission and opening of
their minds to understand the Scriptures were given to the whole company of
believers, not only the Eleven. The book of Acts testifies that at
Pentecost, God's power was given both to men and to women for the purpose
of bringing unbelievers to salvation (Acts
-15, 2:1-4 and 14-21).
At a later time, Acts
tells us that "the
Holy Spirit fell on them all, and they all spoke the Word of God with
the Women given a similar importance and role in the Church today?
theory, yes! The Fathers at the Asian Synod acknowledged
that “the contributions of women have often been undervalued or ignored” (Ecclesia
in Asia, 34). Referring to the Second Vatican Council, they said:
"Since in our days women are taking an increasingly active share in
the whole life of society, it is very important that they participate more
widely also in the various fields of the Church's apostolate…
We need to include them as co-workers and co-leaders by recognizing their leadership, competence and intellectual and creative potentialities... Without discrimination women should be participants in the life of the Church and also in consultation and in the process of decision-making." (Christi Fideles Laici - CFL, 51)
will women get any active role in the mission of the Church in practice?
truth is that today women are performing most of the functions which Jesus
mandated to his disciples as ways of being like him. Today, according to the
Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, one-third of those
“engaged directly in evangelization” are men, two-thirds are women. The
Congregation declares that: “. . . the history of the missions has for a long
time borne witness to the very large role played by women in the evangelization
of the world.”
you give some concrete examples?
I find that there is a lot of eagerness among women religious to study the
scriptures, theology and spirituality in a contextual way. Some religious women
are teaching in the seminaries as professors.
In some parishes of
Even in parishes with priests, women perform important pastoral activities as
team members or as staff. They may even, occasionally, deliver homilies,
bringing their feminine experience in reflecting on the Scriptures.
Women, moreover, are increasingly active in the preaching and directing of
retreats, in spiritual direction, even of priests, in leading shared prayer and
group study of spirituality and of Scripture. A considerable amount of the work
of preparing persons, specially children, for the sacraments is in the hands of
In the administration and service of institutional works, hospitals, prisons,
homes for street children and orphans, for the disabled and unwanted, training
centers for the afflicted and delinquent, women continue “being” Christ for
those in need. In one-to-one visits with the psychologically depressed, the
guilt-ridden, the aging, women
help persons to that conversion of heart.
you have any suggestions to improve women’s participation in New
More women should be involved in the ministry of proclamation of the Good News.
The early Church grew fast because of the female co-workers of apostles like
Paul. It can happen again today.
woman’s experience of God is unique. A woman’s approach to reading and
interpreting the Word of God with her specific ethos will naturally make a
Women need to be used, not only for backstage services, but as co-workers and
co-leaders by recognizing their leadership competence and intellectual and
Dioceses should train and empower women, specially dalits and tribals, for
canonical and judiciary undertakings, marriage and family counselling, priestly
formation and lay-leadership training.
Women could be trained to be on the teaching staff of philosophy, theology and
scripture in seminaries and faculties.
Women should not only have a fair representation in Parish and Diocesan Pastoral
councils, but also in CBCI/CCBI/KCBC commissions and conferences, involved in
organizing, planning and decision making.
Women should be spokes-persons on issues concerning their lives. It should be
part of women’s prophetic mission to denounce evils such as rape, gender
violence, gender exploitation, sexual abuse both in society and in the Church,
Women should get in touch with their own patriarchal blocks! Self realization is
important. They have all potentialities. Their partnership in the ministry of
evangelization honours the biblical teaching that “God created humankind in
his image; male and female he created them”.
parable of the lost coin in St. Luke is one of my favourites.
What the woman is searching for is not the lost coin, but her lost
dignity and equality. Women today
are not asking for privileges, but for opportunities to serve the Church and
society. A conference on New Evangelization which I attended in Pune recently
said: “Women have a special role in
contributing to faith formation and preserving the faith of the Church. As
mothers they are the primary influences in the lives of children who grow up as
Christians. In this work of evangelizing the children in the family, women must
be recognized as making a foundational contribution in nurturing the faith of
growing children. In fact a large number of women both lay and religious, are
engaged in the catechetical apostolate of the Church, thanks to whom the faith
is lived and passed on.”
Ultimately, it is women who must determine what a woman’s worth is. To wait for men to undergo an attitudinal change might take too long if the change comes at all. Women played an active and dynamic role in the early church and perhaps that was one of the reasons for the tremendous growth of the church at that time. Similarly, if we want renewal in the church today, if we want a church that is alive and vibrant, we need once again to have women assume responsible roles. What is needed is not a competitive spirit and prejudice, not proving who is right and who is wrong. Men and women who are interested sincerely in the establishment of a new society should work with each other and work out ways and means to build a new Heaven and a new Earth.