A GROUP of women who have given their lives to serving the Catholic Church in Clare said they were hurt, upset and ignored following a pastoral letter calling for male only deacons to serve the Diocese of Killaloe.
At the weekend Bishop Kieran O’Reilly shelved the plans saying he would “not now proceed with the introduction of the Permanent Deaconate at this time in the diocese.”
Weeks earlier in a pastoral letter he asked for “men married or single, and who are already involved in some aspect of lay ministry or leadership in the community,” to apply for the position of deacon. No women could apply.
Among the jobs listed for these men were charity work, liturgy work, and becoming ministers of the Eucharist – roles currently being undertaken in the main by women in the diocese.
At a forum at the Inn at Dromoland last night (Monday) these women asked for their voices to be heard and a more inclusive deaconate to be developed.
“In 2014 is it appropriate that they bring in another male only ministry? What impression does it give of the Church?” asked Kathleen MacDonald from Cross.
Ms MacDonald is a co-ordinator of the sacraments, prepares creative liturgies, gives retreats to Confirmation children as well as being on the pastoral council and financial committee in her local parish.
Mary Hanley from Ennis who was part of the Diocesan Pastoral Council and involved in the two year long “Listening Process” introduced by the bishop and resulted in the pastoral plan said the document was about empowering lay men and women to do more work.
The Pastoral Plan of the Diocese of Killaloe 2013 to 2020 outlined plans to “empower men and women to live their baptismal calling in the Church at local and diocesan levels” and “To call forth the variety of gifts present in our communities and put them at the service of all.”
Ms Hanley explained that the pastoral letter was then “dropped in” and was “hugely hurtful for women”.
Rita O’Brien from Scarriff, a midwife by profession, was hoping to do masters in pastoral care and was excited in getting more involved in the Church as a layperson until she saw the letter.
“This was an ad for something I knew I had a vocation to do and have the academic ability to study for,” she said. “I was deeply upset on a personal level.”
Martina Meskell from Clonlara, the facilitator of the meeting, said this group of women were not radicals or even feminists.
“We do not want any negativity or divisiveness over this,” she said, adding that they just wanted the pastoral plan implemented to include everyone irrespective of gender.
“We are all ordinary women who give our time voluntary because we care and have a strong faith.”
“It took a lot of courage to speak out with passion and dignity.
“There was a fear of speaking out because there was a fear of damaging relationships with parish priests or jeopardising employment for those women working for the dioceses,” she said.
“We really welcome Bishop Kieran’s decision to put this on hold and acknowledge his commitment to dialogue.”

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