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Adj. Assoc. Prof. Colleen Griffith (STM) signs a copy of Prophetic Witness: Catholic Women’s Strategies for Reform at an April 16 reception marking the launch of the book. (Photo by Frank Curran)

Women Bearing Witness to a Time of Change for the Church

Book of essays published by C21 series offers   strategies for reform Bookmark and Share

By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff
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A collection of essays, newly published through a Boston College-based series, examines a wide range of issues facing the Catholic Church in the 21st century as viewed by 23 of the country’s leading female Catholic theologians, who offer practical strategies for reform and renewal.

Prophetic Witness: Catholic Women’s Strategies for Reform, one of the newest books from the award-winning Church in the 21st Century book series, was officially launched April 16 at an event featuring presentations by the book’s editor, Adj. Assoc. Prof. Colleen Griffith (STM), and several of the contributing authors.

“Prophecy might be described as the ability to recognize the signs of the times and their meaning, and beyond that, to see in those signs the invitation and call of God,” said C21 Acting Director John McGinty. “Colleen Griffith has gathered a remarkable group of women to contribute their individual visions to this volume.  Prophetic Witness: Catholic Women’s Strategies for Reform is a book that will challenge, invigorate, and encourage.”

Griffith noted that the book is an outgrowth of several BC programs aimed at addressing the concerns of Catholic women in the Church, such as the 2004 conference “Envisioning the Church Women Want” and 2006’s “Creating the Church Women Want.”

“The anthology is strikingly different, direct and practical,” said Griffith, who also serves as faculty director of Spirituality Studies at the School of Theology and Ministry.

Joining Griffith on the dais at the event were her STM colleagues Assoc. Prof. Francine Cardman, Asst. Prof. Nancy Pineda-Madrid and Assoc. Prof. Jane Regan (STM); Assoc. Prof. M. Shawn Copeland (Theology); Asst. Prof. Susan Abraham of Harvard Divinity School; and Asst. Prof. Mary Margaret Doyle Roche of the College of the Holy Cross. The event was co-sponsored by C21 and the Women’s Resource Center.

The topics covered in this book by female theologians go far beyond the expected, such as women’s ordination, to issues facing the faithful, especially women faithful, in all corners of society, such as outreach to the poor, the rights of children, sexuality, pastoral care to families with unwed, pregnant teens, simple and ecological living, and multicultural inclusiveness.

Regan writes about the methods of fostering the next generation of faithful Catholic women, complicated by the challenges of being part of a culture “that values what we have or how much we earn over who we are and what we care about.” Pineda-Madrid’s essay reflects on the important role served by popular religious practices.

Some of the authors draw connections to Catholic women from earlier times, such as University of Notre Dame Professor Mary Catherine Hilkert, who writes about Catherine of Siena, and Cardman, who writes about Thecla.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Prophetic Witness, according to Griffith, is the realization that only 50 years ago a book by some two dozen female theologians would not have been possible.

“Fifty years ago it was still most unusual for a woman to choose theology as a career,” she said. But today, “without question, some of the most exciting and creative theological working being done on the world stage is by Catholic women. The women’s experience is really rich and gives rise to wonderful insights.”

Kathleen Sullivan can be reached at kathleen.sullivan.1@bc.edu