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Women in the Catholic Church take on many roles, from parishioner to laywoman to nuns. Women parishioners help prepare for the mass. They can be lectors, choir members, CCD instructors, etc. Laywomen “…are the Catholic women traditionally permitted certain ministerial responsibilities (Wessinger, 244).” They work in churches, schools, prisons, etc. Nuns dedicate their lives to religious devotion. They take three vows; poverty, chasity, and obedience. They are to live simple lifestyles. They live their lives teaching others and helping others.
In 1995, at the Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing, the pope stated:
“Today I appeal to the whole Church community to be willing to foster feminine participation in every way in its internal life. This is certainly not a new commitment, since it is inspired by the example of Christ himself….nevertheless, he also involved women in the cause of his kingdom; indeed he wanted them to be the first witnesses and heralds of his resurrection. In fact, there are many women who have distinguished themselves in the Church’s history by their holiness and hardworking ingenuity.”
The pope also stated that the feminine presence could be seen through, “…theological teaching, the forms of liturgical ministry permitted, including service at the alter, pastoral and administrative councils…”
A year later, according to a research project, The Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life, many women have assumed parish responsibilities. “…The following percentages of ministerial activities done by women reveal: alter preparation 85 percent, teaching 80 percent, social caring and justice ministries 85 percent, parish council leadership 52 percent (Wessinger, 246).”. Church practice is - to a large extent - women's practice. Without the unpaid cooperation of women, important pastoral activities would stop. A fair number of women choose to give their time and efforts to the church, rather than take paid employment. Many times these women are over looked.
There are many questions as to why women can not become priests. Women can not receive the Sacrament of Orders and cannot fulfill the function of ministerial priest hood. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,
“Only a baptized man validly receives the sacred ordination.
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