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The Madeleva manifesto: A Message of Hope and Courage

In the tradition of Holy Cross Sr. Madeleva Wolff, we 15 Madeleva lecturers have been invited to speak a message of hope and courage to women in the church. Reflecting the diversity of gifts bestowed on us by the Spirit, we speak from our particular experiences and vocations, yet share in a universal vision that is faithful to our catholic tradition.

To women in ministry and theological studies we say: Re-imagine what it means to be the whole body of Christ. The way things are now is not the design of God.

To young women looking for models of prophetic leadership we say: Walk with us as we seek to follow the way of Jesus Christ, who inspires our hope and guides our concerns. The Spirit calls us to a gospel feminism that respects the human dignity of all, and who inspires us to be faithful disciples, to stay in the struggle to overcome oppression of all kinds whether based on gender, sexual orientation, race or class.

To women who are tempted by the demons of despair and indifference we say: Re-imagine what it means to be a full human being made in the image of God, and to live and speak this truth in our daily lives.

To women who suffer the cost of discipleship we say: You are not alone. We remember those who have gone before us, who first held up for us the pearl of great price, the richness of Catholic thought and spirituality. We give thanks to those who continue to mentor us.

To the young women of the church we say: Carry forward the cause of gospel feminism. We will be with you along the way, sharing what we have learned about the freedom, joy and power of contemplative intimacy with God. We ask you to join us in a commitment to far-reaching transformation of church and society in non-violent ways.

We deplore and hold ourselves morally bound to protest and resist in church and society all actions, customs, laws and structures that treat women or men as less than fully human. We pledge ourselves to carry forth the heritage of biblical justice that mandates that all persons share in right relationship with each other, with the cosmos and with the Creator.

We hold ourselves responsible to look for the holy in unexpected places and persons, and pledge ourselves to continued energetic dialogue about issues of freedom and responsibility for women. We invite others of all traditions to join us in imagining the great shalom of God.

The Signers:

Holy Names Sr. Mary C. Boys, Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York. Author of Educating in Faith: Maps and Visions and Has God Only One Blessing? Judaism as a Source of Christian Self Understanding. Member of the Christian Scholars Group of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies and senior adviser to the Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith.

Lisa Sowle Cahill, professor of theology at Boston College and president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. Author of ‘Love Your Enemies’: Discipleship, Pacifism and Just War Theory; Sexual Ethics: A Feminist Biblical Perspective; and Sex, Gender and Christian Ethics.

Denise L. Carmody, Jesuit Community Professor at Santa Clara University. Author of 50 books, many of them with the late John Carmody. They were the first couple to receive the John Courtney Murray Award for Excellence in Theology. Her most recent book is Organizing a Christian Mind: A Theology of Higher Education.

Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister, executive director of Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center for Contemporary Spirituality. Member and past prioress of the Benedictine sisters of Erie, past president of the Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses and of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. She is an NCR columnist. Her 20 books include In Search of Belief, The Illuminated Life and The Story of Ruth.

Benedictine Sr. Mary Collins, prioress of Mount St. Scholastica, Benedictine Abbey in Atchison, Kan. She previously taught liturgical studies at The Catholic University of America. An author, editor and lecturer, she is past president of both the North American Academy of Liturgy and the North American Liturgical Conference. Collins was unable to attend the meeting but signed the manifesto.

Elizabeth A. Dreyer, associate professor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University, Fairfield, Conn. Author of Manifestations of Grace, Earth Crammed with Heaven, and A Retreat with Catherine of Siena

Maria Harris, Howard Chair in Religious Education at Andover Newton Theological School and the Tuohy Lectureship at John Carroll University in Cleveland. Her 13 books include Teaching and Religious Imagination; Dance of the Spirit: The Seven Steps of Women’s Spirituality; Proclaim Jubilee!; and Jubilee Time: Celebrating Women, Spirit, and the Advent of Age.

Diana L. Hayes, associate professor of theology at Georgetown University. Author of Were You There? Stations of the Cross; Taking Down Our Harps and other books.

Monika K. Hellwig, executive director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. She taught for many years at Georgetown University and is the author of, among other books, Understanding Catholicism; The Eucharist and the Hunger of the World; and Jesus: The Compassion of God.

Dominican Sr. Mary Catherine Hilkert, associate professor of systematic theology at the University of Notre Dame. Co-editor of The Praxis of Christian Experience: An Introduction to the Thought of Edward Schillebeeckx and editor of William Hill’s Search for the Absent God. Her most recent book is Naming Grace: Preaching and the Sacramental Imagination.

Sister of St. Joseph Elizabeth Johnson, Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University. Author of Consider Jesus: Waves of Renewal in Christology and She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse. Past president of the Catholic Theological Society, she serves on the editorial board of Theological Studies and Horizons: The Journal of the College Theology Society.

Dolores R. Leckey, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center and former executive director of the Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women and Youth at the National Conference of the Catholic Bishops. She is the author of books on contemporary issues in the church and spirituality.

Gail Porter Mandell teaches in the humanistic studies program at St. Mary’s College. Publications include The Phoenix Paradox: A Study of Renewal through Change in the Collected Poems and Last Poems of D.H. Lawrence; Life into Art: Conversations with Seven Contemporary Biographers; and Madeleva: A Biography.

Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister Walk, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, and five books of poetry, including Little Girls in Church and How I Came to Drink My Grandmother’s Piano.

Jeanette Rodriguez, chair of the Theology and Religious Studies Department at Seattle University. She is former president and board member of the Academy of Hispanic Theologians of the United States. Her publications include Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Sandra M. Schneiders, professor of New Testament Studies and Christian Spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology and the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Calif. The author of New Wineskins; The Revelatory Text; and Written that You May Believe.

National Catholic Reporter, May 12, 2000