Page 4, 18th September 1964

18th September 1964
Page 4
Page 4, 18th September 1964 — Women in the Life of the Church TT is significant

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Women in the Life of the Church TT is significant

that Pope Paul's decision to 2invite women auditors to the Council should have come in the very week when Barbara Ward spoke so well for the mind of the Church in her TV after-dinner talk with Lord Boothhy and John Freeman. Perhaps the real value of her contribution lay in her deep humanity, a living witness to what the Catholic tradition can do for the human person when his or her convictions are relevant to the world's social problems.

If the Church has failed to make sufficient impact here it is surely because, although she has certainly loved. she has not been seen to love. Christianity has appeared all too often as an abstraction, and her essentially sacrificial quality has not been sufficiently in evidence.

This quality is enshrined in Christian womanhood in a very special way, and much of the best work done by the Church in the service of mankind is tolibe found in the dedication, too often unsung, of the women religious and the lay social workers. not to mention the countless mothers who ensure the continuity of the Christian family concept.

It is fashionable these days to call the nuns to a sense of modernity, and the importance of this cannot be overstressed. But insufficient attention is sometimes given to the extremely practical, efficient and increasingly highly trained services offered by certain of the women's congregations—notably in the mission fields abroad and the field of the underprivileged family at home.

There is now a juniorate course for nuns in the London area where they can spend a year on theology, liturgy, scripture and catechetics before they go on to their professional training in teaching, nursing or social work. This is in

the spirit of the highly successful "Sister Formation" project in America, Contact with highly trained nuns engaged in social service does more to make the gospel message credible to the world than any amount of abstract teaching. Even in Britain, respect for nuns is one of the few things the modern iconoclast has not destroyed. Yet there is a tendency within the Catholic community a tendency to accord a kind of second class citizenship to nuns. and this has a direct bearing on the fall in vocations.

Not all nuns are yet up to date but many of them are, and the others must be given every encouragement to follow suit. This will not be done by way of clerical jokes about battle-axe Reverend Mothers. Some of these sisters are doing the most responsible and dirtiest jobs in the Church.

It is wholly right that their counsels should be brought to the threshold of Vatican H. It is equally urgent that the increasing number of professionally trained Catholic laywomen should be given their proper function in the parishes and dioceses everywhere, One example occurs to us at once. Experiments are now being tried in the field of aftercare whereby youngsters who have been overinstitutionalised are enabled to live in small communities and make a home and' "family" for themselves, each one going out to earn his own living and then contribute to the maintenance of the home.

Everything depends on each such hostel having at least a "Muni" if not a "Dad" as well. This is surely the kind of work that scores of Catholic women with vocational instincts, now inhibited by our lack of imagination, would gladly embrace. We dare not waste their energy any longer.

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