News, On Campus

Catholic Women Do Preach: STM Event Reflects on Breaking Historical Precedent

Seats could scarcely be found in Simboli Hall’s chapel as attendees gathered for a Candlemas prayer service Thursday night to witness a historically rare sight in the Catholic Church: a woman preaching.

“Today is an opportunity,” said featured preacher and STM doctoral student Kayla August. “It’s an opportunity to break down walls, to break down barriers, to be a vessel that transforms the world.”

The prayer service commenced the STM’s book celebration for Catholic Women Preach: Raising Voices, Renewing the Church, a compilation of homilies by Catholic women published in November 2022.

“In the Testament alone, there are women who knew God personally,” August said. “Jesus had women who stayed at the foot of the cross when others followed or others fled. Women who came to anoint the body at the tomb. Women who knew his healing touch even from the brush of his arm.”

August’s homily reflected on a reading from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke that features Anna the Prophetess.

“There are two versions of this passage,” August said. “The longer version and the other one. Is that a Catholic thing—to choose the longer version?” 

The room filled with laughter. 

“But this extended uncut version is special because one version has Anna, and in the other, she’s edited out.”

Anna the Prophetess was an 84-year-old widow from the tribe of Asher who spent day and night praying in a temple, where she prophesied the coming of Jesus to Jerusalem, according to the Gospel reading. August explained the significance behind Anna’s deep connection to Jesus—and the fact that she is often forgotten in the passage.

“If you find your story lost, your input forgotten, your woes unheard, or God out of your reach, then perhaps you too are from the tribe of Asher,” August said.

Following the prayer service, attendees moved into a Simboli Hall classroom to listen to a panel featuring contributors who worked on the book. 

M. Shawn Copeland, a professor emerita in BC’s theology department, advocated for women’s rights to preach, regardless of the Catholic Church’s stance.

“There is always more to the gospel than the church can express,” Copeland said. “The church is at the service of the Gospel.”

Damian Torres-Botello, S.J., a transitional deacon at the STM, then shared the impact women have had on his personal faith experience and ministry.

“The ministries that I have been involved in are influenced by the women in my life,” Torres-Botello said. “They have taught me to see the marginalized. They have taught me how to love the marginalized. They have taught me how to put God first.”

August explained that when Catholic women preach today, they pay homage to the women of the Bible.

“[Women] make up our world,” August said. “They spend devoted days and nights on their knees. They make up the interspaces of our sacred life and they also are part of our daily lives. They show us who God is.”

February 4, 2023