Sepia faces_vertical_doubleAnne Arabome SSS, originally from Nigeria, is a member of the Sisters of Social Service in Los Angeles, California, USA. She holds a doctor of ministry degree in spirituality from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and is working on a doctorate in systematic theology at the University of Roehampton, London. Anne’s chapter in this book focusses on Jesus as a liberating figure for women, particularly in the context of African women’s lives. In a Church where women’s voices are still not heard, she poses the question: ‘Who is Christ for African women?’.

Olive Barnes was born and raised in rural Ireland to devout Catholic parents. She moved to England for work and returned to postgraduate study after raising her children. She has been a Eucharistic Minister; Reader; Catechist for First Holy Communion, Confirmation and RCIA, and a Catholic school governor. Rose’s chapter in this collection explains why she decided to use alternative forms of birth control due to damaging experiences of Natural Family Planning.

Tina Beattie is Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Roehampton in London. She has published in the areas of Marian theology, gender and sacramentality, and theology and human rights. She is a past president of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain and a member of Cafod’s theological advisory group. She converted to Catholicism in 1986 at the age of thirty one. She and her husband have four children and a grandson. Tina’s chapter in this collection questions Pope Francis’s assertion that “The university of mothers is their heart”. She argues that women need professional and vocational skills just as men need the learning gained by caring for children, in order that both can “embark together” on the adventure of faith.

Amelia Beck is an English woman who converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism at age eighteen, and married a Catholic Irishman when she was twenty. She is now in her seventies. Amelia’s chapter in this collection explains why she decided to use alternative forms of birth control due to damaging experiences of Natural Family Planning. (“Amelia Beck” is a nom de plume).

Pippa Bonner is a retired social worker, latterly running a hospice bereavement service. In her 40s she completed a Masters in Theology and Religious Studies. Now she babysits her grandchildren, writes, is part of a collaborative parish, and volunteers in her local hospital chaplaincy team.  In this collection, Pippa presents her experience of the Internal Forum and argues that it would be a pastoral response for Catholics in similar situations to her own, and one that would keep the Eucharist at the heart of the Church.

Agnes M. Brazal is professor at the St Vincent School of Theology, University, Philippines, and founding member and former President of the Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines (DaKaTeo). She is author/co-author/co-editor of five books, a textbook series, and essays on Filipino/Asian/migration/cyber theologies and ethics. Agnes’s chapter in this book discusses the challenge posed to Filipino families by the migration of women to seek work abroad. She argues that the migration of mothers has been seen to have a more profound effect on children than the migration of fathers, and she appeals for the Church to develop its teachings so that men as well as women are encouraged to develop “the capacity for the other”.

Lisa Sowle Cahill, PhD, University of Chicago, is the Monan Professor of Theology at Boston College.  She is past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Society of Christian Ethics. Her works include Global Justice, Christology and Christian Ethics; Theological Bioethics, and Sex, Gender and Christian Ethics.  She and her husband are the parents of five children. Lisa’s chapter in this collection considers some theological approaches to family life, marriage, and sexual relationships. She calls for a greater attentiveness to the justice and supportive nature of intergenerational relationships, and a greater emphasis on “neighbourly empathy” rather than “righteous judgement”.

Anna Cannon is a Polish cradle Catholic in her late sixties, living in England and the mother of one daughter. She is a qualified medical herbalist, which is her vocation and ministry. Hildegard of Bingen is her patron and Ecclesiasticus 38:4 is her motto: “The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he/she that is wise will not abhor them.”  In this book, Anna tells us of her two very different experiences of marriage: her first being contracted in church as a sacrament but being “far from having any sacramental grace”, and her second, despite not being officially recognised for more than thirty years, being “everything that a genuinely sacramental union involves”.

Catherine Cavanagh is a lifelong Catholic and a candidate in the Doctor of Ministry program at Regis College, University of Toronto.  She works as a teacher and high school chaplain within the publicly funded Catholic school system of Ontario, Canada. Her chapter in this collection asks about the impact on family life and perceptions of children when they learn that only men can preach, be the Imago Christi, and hold the decision-making power. Noting that some propose the ordination of women in answer to these problems, and that some deem this “inconceivable, even forbidden”, Catherine asks that we “wrestle with reality” in mutual trust.

Julie Clague lectures in Christian theology and ethics at the University of Glasgow and researches in the field of moral theology. In 2014, she edited a special issue of the Heythrop Journal on ‘Faith, Family and Fertility’, dealing with topics of relevance for the Synod on the Family and for Catholic engagement with the UN sustainable development goals. She edits the European forum of Catholic theological ethics in the World Church (  Julie’s chapter here explores the disjunction between the Church’s official teaching on marriage and family, and the practices and values of Catholics. She argues that a greater participation of the lay faithful is needed to close the gab between “theological rhetoric and pastoral realities”.

Rachel Espinoza has a master of divinity degree from the University of Notre Dame and is a parish pastoral associate in Chicago; Tawny Horner is a mother of three in Falls Church, Virginia. They met through online communities for practitioners of Natural Family Planning. Their chapter in this collection gives an honest account of the tension that Natural Family Planning can create in a marriage.

Margaret A. Farley is Professor Emerita of Christian Ethics at Yale Divinity School.  She is the author or co-editor of eight books, including Personal Commitments; Just Love, and Changing the Questions, as well as many essays on issues in theological and philosophical ethics. She is past president of the Society of Christian Ethics and the Catholic Theological Society of America. Margaret’s chapter here offers a theological analysis of arguments in support of same-sex marriage, and suggests that mutually-pledged commitment is now at the heart of marriage. As such, she question why same-sex marriages would not also be “experiences of the presence of God”.

Madeleine Fredell OP has degrees in Latin, French and general linguistics; in teaching, and in Biblical Studies, Greek and Hebrew from Institut Catholique in Paris. She has an MA in Contemporary Theology from Heythrop College, University of London. She is Secretary General of the Swedish Justice and Peace Commission and is presently prioress of the Swedish vicariate of Saint Dominic’s Roman Congregation. Madeleine appeals, in her chapter in this book, for a review of Canon Law so that lay women and men can preach the homily.

Sepia faces_vertical_doubleAstrid Lobo Gajiwala established India’s first Tissue Bank, and is former President of the Asia-Pacific Association of Tissue Banks. A member of Indian and Asian theological Associations, she has been published widely. She has been a consultant for the Indian Bishops since 1992 and helped draft their Gender Policy. She is a partner in an interfaith marriage. Her chapter in this collection describes the situations she encounters among women in India in the contexts of poverty and interfaith families. Astrid appeals for a more inclusive appreciation of the riches that Catholic women in interfaith marriages being to the Church.

Cristina Lledo Gomez has a PhD in Theology from Charles Sturt University, Australia. Her thesis was titled “Mother Church as Metaphor in the Vatican II documents.” For the 2015-2016 academic year, she is a Visiting Research Fellow at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry. Cristina is a Filipina native but lives in Australia with her husband and two children. Her chapter here seeks to bring a more realistic model of motherhood into theological discourse; she does this by focussing on the motherhood of the Church and calling for a more mature understanding of faith in the context of the maternal Church.

Janette Gray RSM is Lecturer in Systematic Theology at the Yarra Theological Union within the University of Divinity, Melbourne, Australia. She received a PhD from Cambridge University and has lectured in the UK, USA, Philippines and New Zealand. In this collection, Janette refers to the lack of attention paid to women’s celibacy in the context of religious vows; an oversight she claims is due to the preoccupation with male celibacy. She argues for an incarnational celibacy that is open to sexuality; a celibacy that “reveals that God is found in the diversity of creation and human encounters”.

Katie Grimes is an assistant professor of theology at Villanova University. She studies racism, just war theory, and sexual ethics.  She was born and raised in Marion, Ohio, and writes for the blog Women in Theology. Her chapter in this collection questions arguments from celibate gay Catholics that acceptance of their homosexual identity is consistent with respecting church teaching. She suggests that this is inconsistent with the way in which virtue ethics understands the relationship between desiring and acting.

Nontando Hadebe is currently a Fulbright Scholar at Emmanuel College in Boston, USA and prior to this was an International Fellow at the Jesuit School of Theology, Santa Clara University. She completed her doctorate at St Augustine College, South Africa, where she teaches pastoral and systematic theology. She is a member of the Circle of African women theologians. Her chapter in this book problematises the model of the nuclear family, drawing on her work with African families. Nontando appeals for a contextualized African theology that might produce “more liberating interpretations” of church teaching, and for a more positive approach to reproductive rights.

Ursula Halligan is Political Editor of TV3, Ireland’s commercial television station. She was educated at Our Lady’s Secondary School, Templeogue, Dublin (run by the Religious of Christian Education) and later at University College Dublin where she graduated with an honours BA degree in History and Politics and an MA in Politics.  In this collection, Ursula describes her tormenting experience of realising, as an Irish Catholic teenager, that she was gay. She explains how the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage emboldened her to speak publicly about being gay in the hopes that it will help others experiencing similar difficulties.

Emma Jane Harris is a 24 year-old postgraduate student and research assistant at the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, Cambridge in England. She has studied theology in Bristol and Paris. Her research interests lie in post-Vatican II theology and contemporary gender theory.  In this collection, Emma represents a new generation of Catholics who follow their own consciences around issues of sexuality and contraception.

Elizabeth Johnson PhD, CSJ, is Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University in New York City. Her writings have been translated into thirteen languages. She has served on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue (U.S.), the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Women in Church and Society, and Common Ground Initiative started by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (Chicago) to reconcile polarized groups in the Church. She is past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and the ecumenical American Theological Society. In this collection, Elizabeth offers a reflection on the encounter between Jesus and a woman bent double with infirmity (Luke 13:10-13), from which she presents a vision of Jesus’ liberating love for women.

Alison Concannon Kennedy is co-founder and CEO of the Watermead Music and Publishing Apostolate.  She is a parish and diocesan musician, a composer of liturgical music and many hymns.  For the past fifteen years she has been working as a pastoral assistant in a busy city parish in Leicester, England. Alison’s chapter in this collection charts some experiences of divorce and the effects of the Church’s response to this. She expresses her sadness that children often blame or judge the Church for the pain and unhappiness in their family homes.

Ursula King STL (Paris), MA (Delhi) PhD (London), FRSA, is Professor Emerita of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol, England. Educated in Germany, France, India and England, she has lectured all over the world, published widely and holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of Edinburgh (1996), Oslo (2000), Dayton/Ohio (2003). Married for over fifty years, she and her husband have four daughters and six grandchildren. For this collection, Ursula presents a reflection on her own experiences of studying theology in an academic environment comprised mainly of men, and she appeals for resources to be made more available to women studying and teaching theology.

Trish Madigan OP is currently the director of the Dominican Centre for Interfaith Ministry, Education and Research in Sydney, Australia. Before that she spent over 15 years as the director of the Catholic Church’s office of ecumenical and interfaith relations in Sydney. She has a doctorate in Arabic and Islamic studies and has written extensively on the lives of Muslim and Catholic women. Her chapter in this collection describes how Catholic and Muslim women learn from one another in dialogue through encountering models of human flourishing that enable them to challenge established traditions.

Sara Maitland
studied English at Oxford University where she discovered feminism, socialism, Christianity and friendship – the bedrock of her adult life. She was received into the Catholic Church in 1994 at the age of 44. In 2006 she moved to an isolated moor in South West Scotland to explore a life of silence and solitude. She writes both fiction and non-fiction.  Sara’s chapter in this book offers a challenge to the idea of “complementarity”, arguing that the philosophical problem of gender is also a question of justice.

Cettina Militello, PhD, STD, is associate professor at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Liturgy in Rome and directs the Constanza Scelfo Institute for problems of the laity and women in the Church (Department of the Italian Society for Theological Research). She holds the Chair of Woman and Christianity at the Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum. Her academic interests include ecclesiology, Mariology, women in the Church, and the relationship between ecclesiology and liturgy. Cettina’s chapter examines how the Church has responded to changing roles and expectations of women in western society, post Vatican II. She argues that Christian baptism is identical for both sexes; a reality that calls for full and equal participation of women.Sepia faces_vertical_double

Rhonda Miska is a lay ecclesial minister, freelance writer, former Jesuit Volunteer and graduate of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.  Her past ministries include coordinating parish Hispanic and social justice ministries, leading returned missioner re-entry retreats and serving as campus minister. She is now based at a retreat center in Iowa. Drawing on her own experiences of leadership, Rhonda’s chapter in this collection explores the “blessings, challenges and hopes” of young Catholic women’s ministries. Her hope is that the Church will creatively engage with the struggles of millenials.

Mary Aquin O’Neill  is a Sister of Mercy with a doctorate in religion from Vanderbilt University. After many years of college teaching, she founded Mount Saint Agnes Theological Center for Women in Baltimore, Maryland, and was its director from 1992 to 2009. Since the Center closed in August of 2013, she is in semi-retirement, writing as well as giving lectures and retreats. Her offering to this collection draws on sociological research to question what it means to speak of women in terms of “the role of women”. Mary also questions the ways in which influential male theologians have interpreted St Paul’s understanding of headship in the Church. She appeals for a model that is more faithful to the Genesis understanding of woman as a “helpmate” to man.

Jean Porter is the John A. O’Brien Professor of Moral Theology at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, where she has taught for twenty-five years. She is the author of five books and numerous articles on natural law, Thomistic ethics, and related subjects. Her current project is a study of justice considered as a personal virtue.  Jean’s essay in this collection examines Church teaching on contraception, and suggests that current teaching may come to be quietly dropped. She argues that this process would recognise that the Church safeguards revelation in the context of human limitations.

Carolina del Río has a Master’s in Fundamental Theology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She is a journalist and licensed in Social Sciences and Information, and she teaches at the Santa Maria Spirituality Center. She is a member of the “Study Circle of Sexuality and the Gospel” at the Manuel Larrain Theological Center, and a participant in Argentina’s “Teologanda” programme of study, research, and publications.  She has four children.  Her chapter here explores the ambiguity of Mary in the lives of Latin American women, noting that Mary has been both a model of womanhood and a ‘source of deep rebellion and internal ruptures’.

Lucetta Scaraffia is an Italian historian with a special interest in stories of women and Christianity. She is a member of the National Committee on Bioethics and of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. She has published several books and contributes to numerous journals, including l’Osservatore Romano for which she edits the monthly column, Donne, Chiesa, Mondo. Lucetta’s chapter in this collection describes the exclusion of women from the 2014 and 2015 Synods on the Family as the Church, and argues that the absence of women’s perspectives impoverishes Catholic life. She argues for new understandings that emphasise men’s domestic responsibilities, the importance of the maternal role, and equality between spouses in marriage.

Christine Schenk is an American sister of the Congregation of St Joseph and a regular contributor to the National Catholic Reporter. Previously she worked as a nurse midwife serving low income Cleveland families. Schenk holds Master’s in nursing and theology from Boston College and Cleveland St Mary Seminary, respectively. She is a cofounder of FutureChurch, an international coalition working for full participation of all Catholics in church life and leadership.  She retired from the organization in 2013. Christine’s chapter in this book draws attention to the ways in which Lectionary readings are often edited to omit scriptural references to women’s leaderships. She asks what effects these omissions have, and proposes a revision of the Lectionary texts to raise awareness about the inclusive practice of Jesus and St Paul.

Giovanna Solari-Masson is from an Italian Catholic family. She lives in London and is married with two young daughters. She and her husband run a business together. Her voluntary activities include South London Citizens, Pax Christi and Brixton Justice and Peace. She supports the Brixton and Norwood foodbank and campaigns for the living wage. Giovanna’s chapter in this collection explains why she decided to use alternative forms of birth control due to damaging experiences of Natural Family Planning.

Janet Martin Soskice is Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of Cambridge and President of Jesus College. A mother of two daughters, she is a past President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain and the Society for the Study of Theology.  Her works include The Kindness of God (OUP, 2008) and Sisters of Sinai (Chatto and Knopf, 2009) which was chosen for the “Best Books of the Year” lists of the Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post.  Janet’s chapter explores the question of sexual difference and suggests that the Trinity offers a way of understanding such difference as ‘good in itself’.

Sophie Stanes and Deborah Woodman are two London based lifelong Catholics, six years into their civil partnership. Sophie is a photographer and also works for a religious order. Deborah is a Clinical Psychologist in the National Health Service.  Here, they offer a moving account of their experience of civil partnership as Catholic women. Having lost their premature twin babies, they note that they have “seen the Church at its best and its worst”, due to an inconsistency in the way priests apply Church teaching to pastoral practice.

Patricia Stoat is a retired librarian, single, and a contemporary urban hermit living in England. She has been an atheist, a Buddhist, and finally came home to the Catholic Church. She is passionate about justice and peace, and the development of inter-religious dialogue. She chairs the Nottingham Diocese Justice and Peace Commission. Patricia’s chapter in this collection describes how she learned to embrace and celebrate a life of solitude. She suggests that single women belong among those on the margins, and that this is where the “creative heart” is to be found.

Ana Lourdes Suárez is Professor and Researcher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina in Buenos Aires. She has a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego, and a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Buenos Aires. She coordinates the Interdisciplinary Program, “The Religious Presence in Buenos Aires Slums,” and she participates in Argentina’s “Teologanda” programme of study, research and publications. In this collection, Ana offers a chapter co-written with Gabriela Zengarini that presents a moving insight into the lives of three poor women in a poor neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. Ana and Gabriela observe that these women have drawn upon their own experiences of violence, poverty, loss, and their hope in Christ, in order to help others.

Eve Tushnet is the author of Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith (Ave Maria: 2014). She entered the Catholic Church in 1998 and is a writer in Washington, DC. She blogs at Her essay in this collection describes her decision to adopt a celibate lifestyle as a gay woman in her conversion to Catholicism. She argues that celibacy “can offer some of us radical freedom to serve others”.

Clare Watkins is a Catholic theologian who has juggled theological work in ecclesiology, sacramental theology and practical theology with married life and the raising of four children. She teaches at the University of Roehampton, London, and is currently Chair of the British and Irish Association for Practical Theology.  In this book, Clare offers a reflection on the ways in which struggles constitute the holiness of ordinary families.  Such transgressions and failures, Clare posits, allow for profound experiences of compassion, grace, and peace.

Margaret Watson is a Catholic convert, married to a Baptist for over forty years. Now retired and living in Britain, she was previously a nurse and midwife and then ordained as a Salvation Army Officer.  In this collection, Margaret describes the dilemmas she faces as a recent convert to Catholicism, as her Baptist husband cannot take communion with her when they attend Mass together.  She responds to assertions concerning the rules of the Church with the question: “What about the urging of the Holy Spirit?”.

Gabriela Zengarini OP is Professor of Religious Studies at the Northern University of St. Thomas, Haedo, Buenos Aires. She is a Dominican Sister of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. She holds a Master’s in Dogmatic Theology with specialization in missiology from the Faculty of Theology, Nossa Senhora da Assunção, São Paulo. She shares her life and mission in the community of the barrio Carlos Gardel in Greater Buenos Aires. In this collection, Gabriela offers a chapter co-written with Ana Lourdes Suárez that presents a moving insight into the lives of three poor women in a poor neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. Ana and Gabriela observe that these women have drawn upon their own experiences of violence, poverty, loss, and their hope in Christ, in order to help others.

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