Claremorris Meeting on the Voice of Women in the Church

Today (Saturday) an open meeting took place in the MacWilliam Hotel, Claremorris on the topic of womens voices being heard in the Church. 247 people attended. The attendance was made up largely of women, with maybe about a dozen clergy present.

The meeting was chaired by Monica Morley (of ‘Faith Alive” in Midwest radio). The two speakers were Kathleen McDonnell of the ‘Killaloe Women’ and Gerry O’Hanlon, Jesuit.
Kathleen was undoubtedly the ‘star turn’ of the afternoon. She gave us a full account of the events surrounding the attempt to introduce the Permanent Diaconate into the diocese. She explained the context, which was very important. A long listening exercise had gone on right around the diocese, lasting more than two years. Out of this had come a Pastoral Plan. This plan contained a great deal about equality of all the baptised, collaboration in ministry, giving women positions where their voices would be heard, and other similar objectives. There was considerable hope and enthusiasm generated by this exercise, and the Plan. So when Bishop O’Reilly announced that he was introducing the Permanent Diaconate, without any consultation, these women felt deeply hurt and angry. It seemed to them that, by instituting a further layer of clericalism, confined to men, that there was a rowing back on the ideals of the Pastoral Plan. They also felt that most of the duties to be assumed by these deacons were already being performed by women around the diocese. She said that the group of women intend to continue their efforts to see that the promise of the Pastoral Plan will be fulfilled. And she urged the women at the meeting to make their voices heard in their own parishes and dioceses. But she stressed the need for this voice to be organised and strategic, otherwise it would not be heard.
Gerry O’Hanlon talked about the situation in the Church, nationally and internationally. He spoke about Pope Francis and the ongoing Synod in Rome. He said we are living in an exciting and interesting time in our Church, and he had a lot of hope for the future.
There were plenty of contributions from the floor. The mood of the meeting was very up-beat and positive, and despite the fact that the attendance was mostly of the older generation, there seemed to be a lot of energy for reform of our Church. There was no doubt but that the people there have a great love for the Church, and dearly wish to see it renewed.

Tony Flannery