Conspicuously underrepresented in this discussion, however, are women. Only 25 women were invited to be part of the synod (that’s less than 10 percent of synod participants), and only one vowed religious woman. Although a handful of married couples were invited – a move largely applauded by those concerned that a bevy of celibate men would determine the state of the Catholic family –the overall lack of women bodes ill for a meeting many are hoping will do more good than the commission that preceded the publication of Humanae Vitae.
That includes Sr. Margaret Muldoon, the sole woman religious who will be at the synod.
In an email to the Global Sisters Report, Muldoon, the Superior General of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux, said when she found out she was the only woman religious invited, she almost decided not to go.
“I was totally taken aback and questioned the value of going,” she wrote. “On reflection, I came to accept that one is better than none!” At the synod, Muldoon would like her presence to help propagate a more nuanced understanding of the family –one that Catholic sisters have long cultivated through their work with families on the margins of societies.
Muldoon wrote that she hopes the synod will be able to undertake a broadening of the church’s definition of family, one that includes the diverse families that are actually trying to live their lives within the church. Furthermore, she hopes the synod will be able face the fact that “truth can’t be put into doctrines and dogmas that are clear cut, that separate the good and the bad,” adding that no one, not even the church, is in a position to issue immutable directives for the family in any case.
“Can we admit that we are at an early stage of understanding the good news of Jesus Christ and the way of being human that he offered and invited us to?” she said, which is not to say that Catholic sisters aren’t aware of the very real struggles of Catholic families. On the contrary, women religious working with young people and in family ministries are keenly aware of their pastoral challenges.
And, yet, the inclusion of more Christians is exactly what Sr. Margaret Muldoon would like to see come out of the synod. All Christians should be allowed to participate in the church’s mission, she wrote to GSR, because God sent his son because he loved the entire world. For that reason alone, she added, the church should be more understanding of the Catholic family in all its iterations.
“I hope we are prepared to really listen to the reality of people and to enter into dialogue rather than telling them what to do, be, think,” she wrote.
by Dawn Cherie Araujo, Global Sisters Report, 3 October 2014