Is that what you are worried about?

We are midway through the synod, and I am getting grumpy.

I recall going through this last year. There comes a point when I can't bear to hear any more generalities regarding what is going on in the synod hall.

Pope Francis has been clear from the beginning that he wants an atmosphere where the bishops, auditors, and experts in the hall can speak freely and without fear of being quoted in the press; and I know the people who are managing the press are doing their jobs well. But the vague descriptions offered each day start to take a toll.

Joshua McElwee writes about the tension between transparency and discernment, but right now, it feels like transparency doesn't have much of a chance.

Still, folks look for ways to navigate this landless sea in order to find the voices who offer, not only information, but ultimately, hope.

So, my grumpiness only increased when someone asked about the meaning of the wooden symbol of a naked pregnant woman that was used in the opening ceremony for the synod, again. Is it Mary? Is it pagan?

I rolled my eyes and took several deep breaths as the prefect and crew got caught in the "explain game."

What a waste of precious time because, unfortunately, in the end, there will never be an acceptable answer.

Those who pose the question have a single goal; to sow doubt, relate consp and to undercut the credibility of the Pope, and thereby the synod - a synod which could help spur changes to dust-laden rules that no longer make sense in the Catholic Church of today. And brightly colored head feathers and wooden fertility symbols are all the proof they need to justify their irreverence. For me, such narrow mindedness reflects the vulgar white colonial mentality that is still alive and well in some who publish in Catholic media.

The Real Horror Story

The chaotic back and forth regarding the wooden fertility symbol was muted as Yesica Patiachi Tayori, an artist, bilingual teacher of the Harakbut indigenous people and member of the indigenous Pastoral of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Maldonado, Peru told the story of the crimes and genocide being perpetrated against her people.

She explained that just decades ago the Harakbut people numbered some 50,000 and lived in the Southeast forest of Peru. Now they number fewer than 1000 due to murder and persecutions by "caucheros" or rubber merchants. Her grandparents explained that the Harakbut people deceived and used as cheap labor. At one point, they were sent to an island where some 10,000 Harakbut died in one day because they did not know firearms. Those corpses were thrown in a river. More people died as a result since those living downstream drank this water and died as well.

In the midst of this genocide and violence, Ms. Patiachi Tayori asked, “Where is the U.N.? Where are the international organizations? The abuses, the murders, human trafficking, and the violence against women: Where can we denounce these crimes?”

She said that they have told the Pope Francis that, "we are afraid because we are losing our language; it is being extinguished and we are suffocated by the models of development that come from outside that do not respect life."

She also soberly challenged the media.

"Our grandmothers, our mothers had already warned us about this climate destruction a long time ago and if climate change remained invisible, it’s because not one journalist reported on their protests,” she said.

Her grandparents also told her about a Dominican missionary, José Álvarez Fernández, whom they lovingly referred to as "Elderly Father." During this period of great suffering for her people, he learned about the situation. He came to fight with us and for us. Ms. Patiachi Tayori said that, "If not for him, I probably wouldn’t be here today, telling you this story, and getting our protest known."

Ms. Patiachi Tayori told the world, "There is no Synod without indigenous people." Today, she said she hoped this synod will help raise awareness [about the destruction of the Amazon] and to “make a breach into human conscience.”

"Indigenous peoples are and forever will be the guardians of the forest,” she said.

In January 2018, Pope Francis went to her village and Puerto Maldonado became the starting point in preparing for the current synod.

There Ms. Patiachi Tayori spoke forcefully to the Pope as she told the story of the brutality she and her people were undergoing.

The indigenous people face exploitation of natural resources, the foreigners who invade their territories; "Tree cutters, gold diggers" and oil companies.

“Those who open trails to open cement roads. They enter our territories without consulting us and we will suffer a lot and die when the foreigners pierce the earth to get the metallic black water, ”Ms. Patiarchi Tayori told the crowd.

"We suffer when they poison and destroy our rivers and turn them into black waters of death," she said.

Speaking directly to Pope Francis, she beseeched him, “We ask you to defend us. The foreigners see us weak and insist on taking away our territories in different ways. If they manage to take away our territory, we will all disappear."

Yesica Patiachi Tayori's art works, a medium she uses to tell the stories of her people

Lay Teams; Women Deacons; Women's Representation in the Synod

The 2nd round of small language group circles began today and that by the end of the week, the final document will be completed. It is not yet clear how that final document will be used in the 3rd week and how any final negotiations about the language will be processed, but it appears there has been some conflict in the synod hall. Fr. Giancamo Costa began the disclaimer with,"While it sounds like there have been conflicts, the participants "don't want to get trapped in conflicts and lose sight of the deeper reality."

Hmmm. My grumpy self sank a little deeper in my chair as this "happy face" reporting continued. I am not sure how we would change anything as significant as re-introducing ordination in 2019 to married men or re-introducing the diaconate for women without robust dialogue and, of course, some conflict.

Lay Teams

More positively, Bishop Pedro Jose Conti of Vescovo di Macapal, Brazil spoke about the work in his diocese developing lay teams who minister and lead in the church where they have 1 priest for about 100 parishes. That means the people see a priest twice a year.

He expressed a deep appreciation for lay women and men who have a much needed vocation that offers an antidote to clericalism. "Priests don't know everything," said the bishop. He also commented that lay people take up the political work that must be done in order to save the Amazon and its people.

He said that the path to fuller participation for laity is in process and he has created formation programs for lay people who are then the leaders and ministers in the communities.

Women Deacons

When asked if women deacons will be proposed by this synod, all three bishops today gave the standard answer that "women are important and that they should be recognized."

Bishop Wellington Tadeu de Queiroz Vieira of Vescovo di Cristalândia, Brazil, who does not think celibacy is a barrier to the priesthood, said that the presence of women is essential in the Church with their roles as catechists, leading liturgies, caring for children and the poor.

"We must recognize the value of women," he said.

And although I believe he was sincere when he said, "They often face discrimination", I wondered if they were used to the institutional con or simply blind to the ways the church discriminates.

On the question of opening the diaconate to women, he said that question was already the subject of study by a commission and that we should move on. In the meantime, "the value of women should be recognized."

Yep, my grumpiness meter went off again.

Women's Representation at the Synod

I asked the bishops if they felt satisfied with the make up of the synod where only 35 women were participating along with a whole bunch of men (n 185), especially if  listening deeply to the voices of indigenous peoples is central as they have been saying.

Bishop Wellington gave an answer that was hard to follow, but boiled down to “women have a qualitative” presence here, so the numbers are not so important.  He finished by saying that they synod had “a very loving presence of men and women.”

In my grumpy state, I wondered if my "qualitative presence" was having any affect on this fellow. Apparently not.

Bishop Conti gave signs he was more aware.  

“We are learning and this is very good,” he said.  “We are making steps, little by little and in this synodal church, after listening, we will open new paths.”

Then, he said, “We are learning through this and increasingly, there will be more spaces opened up for women.  I can tell you that is our hope.”

Married priests and women deacons; I'll take both please

By all indications, we will get some sort of recommendation from this group of bishops for opening the door to married priests.

There are some dissenting voices, but most are on board.

And that is good news. It is something FutureChurch has been advocating for the past 30 years.

I know many extraordinary married priests, some who have served on the FutureChurch board, and they have all my love and respect for the kind of lives they live and the kind of ministry they offer. I would be ever grateful if our church would invite them back into their ranks. It would enrich the Church and the People of God.

And the latest CARA data shows the number of priests in the United States continues to decline, as well as the percentage of active priests. In 2018, there were 25,254 diocesan priests, but only 66% are active.

This decline has meant that more and more parishes are being closed or merged. Community and Eucharist are becoming more and more scarce in a world where we desperately need community and Eucharist. And as more and more parishes close or merge, many Catholics, up to 40%, just walk away.

But the ratio of priests to people in the Amazon is markedly worse. The numbers boil down to this. Most communities see a priest once or twice a year.

So a married priesthood that is inclusive of indigenous men would be quite useful.

But, there is also reason to be concerned, especially if the synod proposes a married priesthood, but no diaconate for women.

Right now, women are the leaders and ministers in their communities. They are leading Eucharistic prayers. They are preaching. They are reading the Gospel. They are leading Bible studies. They are baptizing. They are witnessing marriages. They are presiding over funerals. They are hearing people's sorrow and confessions. They are the ones people turn to when in need.

They are priests, by any standard.

And here's the rub. I am concerned that these extraordinary women will be displaced, or replaced by male priests if the bishops here do not have the wisdom and the courage to open ordination of women to the diaconate as well.

More than ever, we have to re-invent ourselves because we are a Gospel people. But, at the same time, we do not want to foster another extinction in this region. We want women who are ministering and leading their communities to not only survive, but the be strengthened.

I want to see the priesthood opened to married men. At the same time, it is all the more important to open the diaconate to women.

We need both, please.

Sister of St. Joseph Shares Her Experience and Thoughts on Women's Ministry and the Diaconate

I am a CSJ and just read your newsletter about the Amazon Synod and women deacons.

It reminded me of my first hand experience in 1995 when I visited our Sisters from the USA ministering in Curepto, Chile. I was on our Congregational Leadership Team in St. Louis, MO at the time.

It was Holy Thursday night. Three of us nuns drove out into the campo where a community was celebrating this sacred night.

In a barn/shed gathered 35 or more campesinos, each brining baked bread or grapes for the sacred service. The service was conducted solely by a woman in her 50’s wearing a dress and kitchen apron. It was the most sacred, prayerful, communal Holy Thursday I had ever witnessed!

Two hours later, when we drove back into Curepto, we were met by 3 women of the town who shared their shock and sadness. The elderly missionary priest who presided at the parish Holy Thursday celebration had left out the entire consecration part of the liturgy. He did not pronounce the words of consecration. The women told us that they approached the altar and helped him find the pages in the book.

True story!

Women have been saving our faith rooted in the Eucharist for decades in South America.

Is formal ordination needed?

The community certainly “ordained” these women ministers as bearers of our tradition.

I believe that it is the ordained men of our church who need to catch up with what’s actually happening.

Formally open up the Diaconate to women if you are brave enough at this Synod, but women will continue to minister to and with the people of God with or without ordination.

A friend gave this wisdom to me back in the 90’s:

“You can’t think yourself into a new way of acting.

You have to act yourself into a new way of thinking.”

Women of faith are acting...they are not waiting.

Peace and prayers for our church,

Sr Judy Molosky, csj

My Interview with Leah Cashimero

Today, I interviewed Leah Cashimero, a bi-lingual education specialist in Guyana. It has not been confirmed, but at 26 years old she may be the youngest participant at the synod.

She is one of two young Catholics who joined Bishop Francis Allenye here at the synod. So, I will be sharing more about her story this weekend, but in the meantime, you have to know she is very strong on promoting women's leadership, and wants to see the church open to women deacons.

Bishops, can you hear her?