Report from Rome: Recovering the memory of  women leaders in early Christianity and advocating for women's leadership in the Church today! 
This past week I was privileged to accompany 31 extraordinary women and men on a pilgrimage to Rome visiting the sites of early Christian women leaders. Led by our academic scholar, Sr. Carolyn Osiek, we learned how women functioned in early Christianity and explored sites with ancient frescoes, mosaics, sarcophagi friezes, ancient house churches, catacombs and
basilicas bear the names of women leaders like Priscilla, Pudentiana, Praxedis and Domitilla. 
At many of the sites, we held prayer services led by  spiritual director, Sr. Christine Schenk.  Her beautiful services helped us bring to mind our fore-mothers in faith, as well as, women today who have led with courage and fidelity in hundreds of ways in our Church and in our world. 

The time together also afforded us the extraordinary opportunity to learn about the lives of early Christian women leaders from other participants in the group, experts in their own right.  Academics, clergy and leaders  from the US, Canada and the UK generously shared their work, ministry and scholarship with all.

To read our pilgrimage blog CLICK HERE.

FutureChurch at Vatican Radio

Chris and I also met with Philippa Hitchens of Vatican Radio who conducted not just one, but three interviews with us.  Here is a link to the interview she conducted with Chris as we prepared to begin our pilgrimage. 

As Chris noted, our exploration of earliest Christianity and the roles women offers deep insights and inspiration for women's leadership today.  Going forward, FutureChurch will be expanding our pilgrimage destinations to learn about women's leadership in Greece and beyond. 

FutureChurch at Vatican Offices 
Another aspect of our work in Rome involved visiting several Vatican offices.  In each and every office, Sr. Chris and I were welcomed and entered into respectful cordial conversations regarding our concerns for the future of Church leadership and ministry.

Congregation for Clergy

At the Congregation for Clergy we discussed our concerns regarding the shrinking numbers of priests and parishes and our hope for dialogue regarding optional celibacy.  The representative affirmed our concerns and offered his frank assessment of the current state of the Church.  He also received our packet with over 20,000 signatures asking that church leaders open the discussion on optional celibacy and invited us to stay in touch with his office.

Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith

At the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith we met with another representative and engaged him in a discussion regarding women deacons.  The exchange was friendly and frank.  He received our packet with nearly 13,000 signatures calling for the restoration of the permanent diaconate to women.

Synod of Bishops

At the office of the Synod of Bishops we spoke with a representative sharing our concerns regarding the inclusion of women theologians and theologians with families during the working sessions of the synod. We learned Pope Francis and Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri are making significant changes to the processes at the Synod of Bishops.  As a starting point, Cardinal Baldisseri moved beyond convention when he sent the preparatory document, the lineamenta, to all the bishops in the world and not just the heads of the Bishops' conferences.  It is clear that Pope Francis is strengthening the Synod of Bishops and expanding their role in the decision making processes of the Church.

FutureChurch will continue to monitor events leading up to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family and advocate for inclusion of Catholic voices, including those of women theologians and theologians with families in Rome in October when the synod begins.

Pilgrimage participants write letters

During the week, our participants were eager to get on bo
ard with our postcard and letter writing campaigns.  We sent postcards to Cardinal Gerhard LudwigMueller urging the diaconate be restored to women, as well as letters to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldiserri asking him to include women theologians and theologians with families in the work of the synod.  We also sent copies of our Celebrating Women Witnesses in Spanish to Pope Francis which included information about the many women leaders missing from the Lectionary!   

Please continue to support our work for equality in Catholic leadership. Please support FutureChurch today!

As we traveled in Rome, we could see that many changes are taking place under Pope Francis.  But, frankly, Pope Francis cannot make all the necessary changes alone.  Indeed there is stiff resistance to change under Pope Francis.  Steps toward equality in church leadership won't occur if we don't continue to raise awareness and advocate for change.

Please become part of our Equality in Catholic Leadership Campaign and support this work by giving $20 or more. 

Give $100 or more and you will receive, "A Woman's Place: House Churches in the Earliest Christianity" by Carolyn Osiek, Margaret Y. MacDonald and Janet H. Tulloch as our way of saying THANK YOU!  This book is a must read for all who are interested in women's leadership in the early Church!

Thank you for your support!

Deborah Rose-Milavec
Executive Director
P.S.  Below, please find other resourcesdesigned to raise awareness and create the equality in church leadership.


1.  Go to and download our resource on Female Deacons.
  Gather together to discuss our continued work to open the diaconate and other positions of leadership and ministry to women.  Pray, discuss and act!   

2.  Order our Celebrating Women Witnesses I and II or download essays devoted to individual women leaders and saints.  Reflect each day on the witness of early Christian women leaders and on women in our age who daily work to make the Gospel a reality.   Gather together with others and retell the stories of women's courage and women's role in the shaping of our faith and our world.
3.  Order our Holy Week and Easter resource and put women like Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Susanna back into focus in our salvation history.  Talk to your pastor, minister or homilist about including John 20:10 - 19 in the homily on Easter Sunday so the whole story of Mary of Magdala's calling as "Apostle to the Apostles" is told. At your Easter celebrations, make sure Catholics young and old learn how women helped shape our faith tradition.

4.  Write a letter to Pope Francis thanking him for including both women and men on the advisory committee dealing with clergy sexual abuse and urging him to further expand the roles of women in the Church.  CLICK HERE to read the letter FutureChurch and 52 national and international organizations sent to Pope Francis in February asking for a meeting to discuss women's leadership.

5.  Write a letter to Cardinal Baldisseri asking him to include women theologians and women with families in the work of the Synod on the Family.  CLICK HERE to send a letter. 



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