In Service to the Lord and the Church

st-catherine-of-siena

Saint Catherine of Siena, whose feast we celebrate today, exemplifies the tremendous gift that so many women have been in the life of the Church. With a burning desire to serve the Lord, her life was one of rich and deep prayer combined with charity in service to others, including nursing those dying from the Black Plague that decimated Europe in the fourteenth century. Catherine also worked for peace between the republics and principalities of Italy and boldly counselled two popes while speaking on behalf of a unified Church in a time of internal discord. It was Catherine who through prayer and dialogue gave voice to the need for the Church to exercise strong leadership and above all seek unity in service to our Lord.

Saint Catherine is only one of so many women who have played indispensable roles throughout the history of salvation both before and after the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the first being of course Mary, Blessed Mother of our Lord and Mother of the Church. The Old Testament tells us about prominent women like Miriam, Esther and Deborah to go with the countless unnamed women who provided the strength of faith to their families and neighbors. The New Testament recounts both nameless women who became Christian through the preaching of Jesus and the Apostles and also names women such as Lydia, Susannah, Phoebe, and Prisca who were stewards within the young Christian communities. We can imagine that they were inspired too by the strength and faith of companions of Jesus like Martha and Mary of Bethany, as well as Joanna, Salome and Mary, the mother of James, each of whom with Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the Apostles, were the first witnesses to the Resurrection.

Not only are these women models of faith, but to their stories we add the succeeding chapters of women today whose faith and service make our parishes and communities places of hope. Next month, we highlight just two examples.

On this coming Wednesday, May 3, many will gather at the annual Hope Blossoms gala to support of the work of St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families, founded by the Daughters of Charity. For more than 150 years, unmarried expectant mothers have found at St. Ann’s the support and preparation they need to care for their children. St. Ann’s has also proven remarkably capable of creatively responding to the needs of mothers and children facing homelessness and women who have been victims of human trafficking.

On May 20, women from across the area will gather at Catholic University for the archdiocese’s fifth annual women’s conference. Capturing the joy of the Easter season, the theme is “Occasions of Grace.” Women will be invited to reflect on how they receive God’s grace in the ordinary moments of life. This conference is both a time to thank the women of this local Church for great service, as well as a time to come together in prayer and fellowship steeped in the life-renewing grace of Easter.

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