The Catholic Church has almost a million religious sisters around the world. Many of them are involved in pastoral work, especially in parishes, schools, colleges and hospitals. Quite a few of these religious sisters have a vocation to the priesthood.
A vocation to religious life does not automatically include a vocation to an ordained ministry. But there is no doubt about it that the religious vocation of those sisters who have a call to the priesthood would be greatly enhanced if they were allowed to exercise their ministry with all the extra graces bestowed at ordination.
Two models of religious sanctity knew themselves called to the priesthood: St. Catherine of Siena and St. Thérèse de Lisieux. Both were also Doctors of the Church. The Irish Sister Vincent Hannon was one of the first Catholics to write a book on the issue: The Question of Women and the Priesthood (1967).
Catholic Religious Women keep clamouring for the Church to wake up.
Indian Religious Sisters write to the Holy Father
“We are women religious from India, proud of our membership in the Catholic Church and the gift of faith we received in her. We are a movement just five years old. We do not have as yet an institutional structure or an office building. We meet once a year to discuss some significant issues in the life of women and in our own experiences and try through theological reflection to deepen our faith and commitment. We write this letter to you with filial confidence that you, as the father of all Christian people, will listen to our response to the tone and content of your letter on Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone (22 May 1994).”
“There are some statements in the letter that are extremely painful for us to read. No1, para. 2 says: ...her teaching authority which has constantly held that the exclusion of women from priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for the Church. The phrase ‘exclusion of women’ seems to negate our very membership in the Church. We do have full membership in the Church through the sacraments of initiation namely Baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. Then why should we as a class be prevented from certain functions in the Church? Dear Father, who decides what is God’s plan for the Church? Is it not the people of God? Do you as the father of this family of faithful exclude us from the people of God even in the common search for God’s will for the Church today?”
The letter was signed by 14 theologically qualified Religious Sisters (1994).
Religious Sister with a vocation
“ I am a French woman, born in Paris in 1950. Since my parents were not believers, I was neither baptised nor brought up in a faith. My conversion came through a Catholic friend, and I was baptised at the age of 18.
As soon as I believed and knew God’s love for me, I experienced the desire to become a priest. At that time, this vocation meant a life consecrated to speaking about God and being able to give the life of God to people through the sacraments. I hesitated because of the issue of ministry, knowing that it would be possible for me in the reformed Churches. Nonetheless, I chose the Catholic Church, in the hope that the situation would change, and also because I felt that in her I would find the fullness of Christian faith. ”
From an African country
“The Archbishop entrusted this district to me of which I am now directly responsible to him, as its parish priest. And the parish of St.Andrew was born, an immense parish, much larger than a French province but less populated. The desire to be a priest, which has never left me, gives me a clear sense of my calling, of a specific appeal of the Lord to me. As with all his other ministers, he wants me to continue the mission he entrusted to the Apostles.
I feel myself profoundly being ‘the priest’ of these people who have been entrusted to me by the Church. Charged as I am to be for them the instrument of salvation of Christ, I want to give my life for them.”