Northeast Ohio Catholic churches include women in decision-making, women say

February 7, 2019

Northeast Ohio Catholic churches include women in decision-making, women say

CLEVELAND, Ohio – In the Roman Catholic Church, only men can be priests. But Catholic bishops worldwide have called for more women in church decision-making roles – a move already happening in many Northeast Ohio parishes, women say.

“I would say 70 percent of our ecclesial positions are held by women, and I am confident their thoughts are reflected in parish decisions,” said Mimi Thompson, 69, of Medina’s St. Francis Xavier parish. “But that is just my parish, so I think it’s good to have this set forth as an over-all goal of the Church.”

The call to involve more women was part of the final document of the month-long October Roman Catholic Synod on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.”

Women at the Vatican chanted, “Knock knock! Who’s there? More than half the Church!”

But women here aren’t necessarily pushing for more power.

Brianne Thome, 29, of Old Brooklyn’s Mary Queen of Peace, sees different roles for men and women as not only appropriate, but based firmly on scripture and Church catechism.

“Just because roles are different, that does not imply inferiority,” she said. “Equality does not mean sameness.”

Cleveland.com interviewed six active Catholic women about their thoughts on men, women, the priesthood and ecclesial employees, who work alongside the dwindling number of ordained male priests and deacons serving the needs of the more than 667,000 Northeast Ohio Catholics.

Women are parish directors of liturgy and music, catechetical leaders, school principals, and campus and hospital ministries. Set in place after the Second Vatican Council, there are now almost 31,000 paid ecclesial positions in the United States, 80 percent of them filled by women.

Meghan Rieth, 33, of St. Ambrose parish in Brunswick feels that women can offer fresh perspectives, and can also stand as a safeguard against a misuse of power among priests.

But there’s no move to allow women to be priests. Even though Lori Rodgers, 58, of Holy Martyrs parish, believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would want the best and brightest for any vocations.

“Until every role is open to all,” said Barb McCoy of St. Augustine parish in Barberton, “there is probably always going to be a patriarchy.”

While this may frustrate some Catholic women, those interviewed bycleveland.com aren’t forcing the issue.

“I might agree or disagree with one stance,” Rieth said, “but one stance is not a deal breaker. The church, the foundation, is more than one issue for me -- and that will not change.”