Panel Discussion on the Role of Women as Leaders in the Catholic Church

Speakers for the Cummins Institute Symposium on Women Leaders in the Catholic Church “The Catholic Church and the Role of Women in Church Leadership”—the second presentation in a three-part virtual panel discussion series presented by the Cummins Institute for Catholic Thought, Culture and Action—is being held on Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 4 p.m. (PST). The engaging discussion, moderated by Saint Mary’s College President James A. Donahue, will complement the College’s acknowledgement and celebration of the presence of women at Saint Mary’s for 50 Years.

The panel discussion will feature three national Catholic leaders representing various levels of leadership in the Catholic Church: The Most Reverend Michael C. Barber, SJ, Bishop of the Diocese of Oakland, Calif; Sister Barbara Reid, O.P., president of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Ill.; and C. Vanessa White, associate professor of Spirituality and Ministry at the Catholic Theological Union of Chicago, Ill.

“We are taking our cue from Pope Francis, in his recent encyclical on integral human development and solidarity,” said Brother Charles Hilken, FSC, director of the Cummins Institute at Saint Mary’s College. “The organization of societies worldwide is still far from reflecting clearly that women possess the same dignity and identical rights as men.” (Fratelli Tutti, paragraph 23).

The importance of the role of women as leaders in the Catholic Church has been acknowledged and acted upon by Pope Francis, with his appointment of Sister Nathalie Becquart—one of two undersecretaries for the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops. Her appointment marks an inflection point for women’s leadership in the Catholic Church, and represents an important step toward meaningful progress. In the published Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis noted that “women have kept the Church alive…through their remarkable devotion and deep faith.”

The panelists will share their vision, insights, and elaborations on the significant impact that women leaders can and will have on the Catholic Church.

“I am honored to serve as the moderator for this important panel discussion,” said Donahue. “It is very timely as we are celebrating 50 years of women at Saint Mary’s.” He added, “The contributions that women have made and will continue to make at the College, in the Catholic Church, and throughout the world are imperative to society and humankind.”

Student responses will be shared at the end of the conversation, followed by questions from the audience. To attend, register here.

(The Bishop John S. Cummins Institute for Catholic Thought, Culture, and Action seeks to deepen appreciation among all constituents of the campus community for the beauty, wisdom, vitality, and diversity of the Catholic tradition).