Catholics/Women in Servant Roles
I was on the United Methodist Church (UMC) ordination path for six years when they decided chaplaincy was social work and told me to redefine my ministry and try again. I have an M. Div. with a major in Pastoral Counseling and four units of Clinical Pastoral Education (plus some crisis intervention training). I left the UMC and became part of the United Church of Christ (UCC) after a recommendation from one of my chaplaincy supervisors. The UCC believes in chaplaincy as a valid ministry.
Since I left the UMC (approx. two years ago), I have given a lot of thought to the Catholic Church. I have long loved the Catholic Church and have defended her to others. I have more books by Catholic authors than any other and spend quiet time, when I can, at Catholic retreats. (I love the Liturgy of the Hours.)
I don't seem to have the energy (I'm 57 this year) or desire to start the ordination process again in the UCC. So for the past two years, I have done nothing. And if I am going to keep doing nothing, the UCC is not the church for me.
Now I am once again thinking of the Catholic Church and all I love about her. I am not one to go against the teachings of a Church I belong to; part of joining a church is knowing what they believe and standing with them.
So, is there any type of servant work I would be able to be involved in if I joined the Catholic Church that would make use of the training I have had and the passion God has put in my heart for one-on-one ministry and crisis ministry? I am a full-time engineer so even volunteer work would be fine.
If I believed there was a place for me in the Catholic Church where I could use the gifts and passions God has graced me with, I would sign up for RCIA today.
There certainly is a place for women in the ministry, most directly and principally, in the convent as a nun. There are even leadership positions in the convent, to be the Mother Superior of a religious house, or even the Abbess of an order or congregation of consecrated religous.
Some women have had further significant roles, as for example St. Catherine of Siene who worked miracles, and wrote a letter to the Pope, persuading him to return to Rome (this being at a time during which the Popes had resided in Avignon), which he did. Yet others have been truly heroic martyrs and mothered truly holy priests in the most unlikely and arduous circumstances.
Before God, every soul is of incalculable value, and of course all real gifts that God gives are meant to be used, as God directs through His Church. But be careful, for gifts can take on a life of their own, and sometimes be twisted to a fallen cause, and some "gifts" a person might feel they have would be false, and little more than evidence that the person does not know themselves better.
In particular, the sacramental powers of the priesthood are reachable only to men, even as childbirth and mothering are reachable only to women, and that is the way God has built things up. We live in a time when women are being told that they can be "priestesses" but this is a lie. It is no matter of mere "policy" which can be set aside, but something as intrinsic to the nature of man as the power to mother is to the nature of woman. Anyone telling you otherwise is attempting to provoke within you the development of "gifts" which have no reality and which ultimately must disappoint. If that is the kind of "place" you seek, that place has no reality, not only within the Catholic Church, but at all, since any "church" which is willing to deviate from the nature of humankind by promising otherwise can and will deviate in many other ways, and the women so tricked accomplish nothing good for the Kingdom of God.
Surely, if worthiness were the factor, and if anyone could truly prove worthy, our Lord's Mother Mary would certainly have merited such favor as to be numbered among the Apostles, and our Lord handily demonstrated on many occasions that He was by no means intimidated by customs and manners of whatever times He lived in. He did not make Mary a priestess because, given the nature of humanity as created by Himself, the Father, and the Holy Ghost, it was not possible.
The problem is not one of merit but one of nature. But merit is what will truly matter in the Kingdom of God, and a person with real gifts will find a real use for those gifts as intended by God. Women are not in any way lesser creatures to men, but "equals, but in subjection" even as the Divine Son is in subjection to the Divine Father, though both are equally God.
Sometimes, one just has to trust that God will find a valid use for everything you would wish to give to His Kingdom, if only you place yourself at His disposal. "Yea, even if He slay me, yet still will I hope in Him." Job 13:15 Give yourself to God, and in time God will as much from you as you can give (and more).