Sir.—I read Mr. Cooper's suggestions in a recent CATHOLIC Htiesto that we have lay preachers within the Church. and I agree with him wholeheartedly. I have also read in previous issues the need for deacons to assist the Parish Priest with his many duties. What has been disappointing in these suggestions, is the insistence on deacons and laymen preachers.
Why, in this day and age. is there nobody demanding deaconesses and laywomen preachers? For too long have women not been given an official place in the Church, so surely, now, when change is all around us, is the time to correct this omission, A married woman. fulfilling her duty as a wife and mother is called blessed and rightly so: a nun praying and teaching in her convent is one set apart from the world, but the single woman who cleans the church, does the flowers and cares for the fabric of the Church as well as instructing children and assisting with the music of services has no official sanction for all that she does, and is generally taken for granted!
Not that praise and gratitude are asked for from the priests who are thus served. The duties are done willingly for God and His Church. But it would be gratifying that these most necessary of helpers, the willing Marthas. were recognised as holding office within the Church. and more sacred duties allowed to them, St. Paul himself, no mean example, although not a lover of women. sometimes to he thought almost a misogynist. seems to have had many women helpers in the early church and there were appointed deaconesses. In the present trend of Church thought, when the feeling of return to the early rites and teaching is so prevalent cannot this very gracious gesture be paid to Catholic women?
Other Christian communities have these appointments, and some even have women priests, and seem very satisfied with the arrangement. Surely it should be considered within the Catholic Church where such devotion is given to the greatest of all women —the Mother of God?
In these days, when all professions are open to women. why should the Church hang back in this matter, and refuse to give serious thought to the subject of deaconesses within the Church, and the asset they would be?
Single women living within the parish who were vowed to help the extension of the Church, after suitable training could be confirmed in their Office. Their work could be menial as well as pastoral, taking in the wide scope of opportunity there is in every Parish for cleaning, mending, instructing, visiting and also preaching at services. All this should be undertaken by women who were recognised as having been called, trained and even to some extent, ordained for the Church.
I believe there is a movement in Germany for women to he accepted in this way, and I can only hope that it finds many followers in this country.
Parise Johnson, Hampton Hill.