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The Church and women

28 Nov 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Events

A week ago, I had the opportunity to spend some precious moments with my parish women in preparation for the parish women’s conference. It was enriching and reassuring as I spoke on the topic; the Church and women. Below is the summary of the talk I gave.

Some members of the C.W.O. in their uniform.

Some members of the C.W.O. in their uniform.

In the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth, women almost had no voice, especially in the synagogue. Some Christians actually still have that thinking today, and their argument is based on the fact that Jesus chose twelve apostles and none was a woman, so women have no place in the Church. Those with this conviction should go back to the scriptures to re-discover that the  Gospels portray Jesus as someone that not only spoke and interacted with women but also treated women with compassion, dignity, and respect.

In the Judean culture of the time, the testimonies of women didn’t count, yet they forget that it was a woman who first testified to the resurrection of Jesus. The Jewish religious elite believed that women, in general, should not be taught the Torah/the law or the scriptures, yet Jesus taught Mary, the sister of Martha. Among the Jews, women were considered untouchable (unclean) during menses, yet Jesus showed compassion to the woman with the issue of blood who touched the hem of his garment. Some Catholics with this prejudice against women are often seen tactically avoids receiving holy communion from Religious Sisters simply because they are women. Yet, these religious baked the bread presented for consecration. They claim the bread is transformed; it’s no longer ordinary bread but Christ; true, but a woman carried this Jesus in her womb for nine months. At the crucifixion, the men and the apostles ran away, but the women stayed with Jesus to the last.

It was most probably that men were not allowed to speak publicly with none-related women in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time. Yet, Jesus broke that wall of separation to extend the hand of fellowship to even none-Jewish women. He spoke publicly with the Samaritan woman (Jn. 4|:1- 44) and responded favorably to the faith of the Canaanite woman (Mt. 15:21-28). Though Jesus did not choose any woman to be part of the twelve apostles, he was however friendly, loved, and enjoyed their collaboration( Lk. 8:1-3).

Women are not ordained priests in the Catholic Church does not make them irrelevant in the Church; they have a vital role to play in the ministry of the Church, just as they did at the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

When Jesus rose, he appeared to Mary-Madelyn and the other women; he turned them into evangelists by sending them to the men. Do not be afraid, he said to them, go and tell my brothers that I am alive, tell them to go to Galilee there they will see me (Mt. 28:10). Women still have that evangelism role to play in the Church today, and every woman in the Church is called to rise to that responsibility.

The ordained ministers may, for some reason, lack the capability to put certain things across that are better expressed by women. In St. Paul’s letter to Titus 2:4-5, Paul encouraged Titus, who was a leader in the early Church, to train the older men and the older women, and the older women are to train the younger women. Titus was not to train the younger women, for it’s better done by women.

The older women may find this task a bit difficult in the Church unless they come together in faith under one umbrella. In her wisdom, the Catholic Church in Nigeria created this one big umbrella under which every woman in the Church must operate, and this umbrella is called Catholic Women Organization (C.W.O.)

The Church in Nigeria especially calls on every woman proud to be a Catholic to be registered under this body. Let every woman who is listening to me this evening not be discouraged by anybody or condition from taking her rightful place in the Church, do not deny who you are; a proud Catholic woman. That is who you are, rise to be counted in the Church, and remain standing after been counted to defend the faith. Do not be ashamed of your identity, do not be discouraged by what you hear or see but be encouraged by your faith.

The C.W.O. is not an organization for older women; it is an organization for every woman in the Catholic Church. One of the reasons many younger women are having some challenges in their marriages is because they have disconnected themselves from the older women. They see the older women as “old school.” They must, however, understand that the so-called “new school” cannot stand unless they build on the “old school.” I keep asking, what is wrong with our generation? What is wrong with us, the younger ones. We let ourselves be carried away by our youthfulness and disconnect from the old form to draw some inspiration. This is a challenge to the older women, let the women of this Church come together, pray together, build the Church and the family of God together. That oneness, that togetherness is a powerful force Jesus enjoyed during his earthly ministry. There is no report in the gospel that those women who accompanied Jesus Christ preached or said anything. They are not quoted anywhere, but their companionship, fellowship, and contributions meant a lot for Jesus and his apostles. I, therefore, call on every Catholic woman to come under this one unique umbrella for the good of the Church.

  • Fortunatus Ihedioha Reply

    Thank you fr. for this wonderful piece of writing. I salute your intellectual and moral probity. I wish not to agree 100% with you that the young married women shy away from joining CWO because they feel that members of this fold are old school.

    Speaking subjectively, I think that the existence of Confraternity of Christian Mothers (CCM) in Lagos is creating a little confusion in the minds of those young married women. If you take your time and look into the catalogue of members that make up the CCM, you will see that they are all young women while CWO is majorly dominated by elderly women. It is not like that in the Eastern part of Nigeria, particularly in my home diocese Okigwe. What we have is only CWO as an organization and not a society where all wedded catholic women belong to compulsorily.

    It is surprising to me that here in Lagos, CWO is erroneously regarded by the majority of our catholic faithful as one of the societies in the catholic. In the East, I was taught that there are three organizations in the catholic church compulsory for everyone depending on your age, viz: CWO-for wedded catholic women, CMO-for wedded catholic men, and CYON-for every young and unmarried catholic person. Now that CWO is regarded by the uninformed catholic women in Lagos as a society and there is also another society, CCM for wedded catholic women, there is every tendency for one to decide where to and not to belong.

    My suggestion is that all those women in CCM in all parishes within Lagos should be made to understand that they are compulsorily required to join CWO.

    Thank you Fr. I wish you more grace.

  • Osuji Chinenye Reply

    Thank you father for reminding us of our role as women. I would love to know if the CWO is for both married and unmarried women? If yes, why do we still have Confraternity of Christian mothers. As it sometimes gets confusing to me.

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      Osuji, the C.W.O. as I said in my write up is the umbrella under which all Catholic women falls. You must be married to be registered. The Catholic Christian mothers is like any other socity in the Church, they too must be registered as members of C.W.O.

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