Women of Influence, Prophets of Hope

By Ginny Scally, SNDdeN

This article initially appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of our magazine, 'Sowing Goodness.' The full issue is available here.

As I reflect on my faith development, I am reminded of the women who have influenced it the most. My mother was the first Woman of Influence in my faith life. She introduced me to a God of Blessing and taught me how to offer my day to Him. On walks to Church for Benediction, she explained the significance of the priest raising the monstrance and the lamp beside the altar. Her spirituality opened my heart and soul to the Person and Presence with whom I have journeyed ever since.

In my parish Catholic schools, I encountered more women of influence who were Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur! Their lives were a witness to their relationship with Christ, and their mentoring introduced me to “spiritual exercises” and supported my discernment for my vocation as a Sister of Notre Dame. Their humanity and holiness helped in creating in me a new woman of influence for the future.

In the mid-70s, I joined a team of six co-pastors in an experimental parish on the south side of Chicago. We were a true Vatican II parish where all members were empowered to be People of Influence. We rotated weekend preaching, and liturgical ministers would meet to reflect on the Scriptures with their homilist.

During the 80s, I joined the pastoral team at St.Anne University Parish in Boston. The women on the team could only preach at Evening Prayer, but my most satisfying ministry was supporting the journeys of students as they explored issues of identity, gender, and faith. My journey gave me a grounded spiritual experience that I could use to help those who confided in me.

But I was ready for more, and that “more” came from the Diocese of Saginaw in Michigan. Bishop Ken Untener was appointing women as Pastoral Administrators (read “pastoring persons”) in priestless parishes, and I was one of them. We were directly accountable to the bishop, just like our ordained counterparts, and our responsibilities included the spiritual, educational, and financial operations of the parish. In this role, for over 20 years, I had the best opportunity to influence the lives of others. I was able to preach on weekends on a bi-weekly basis until the introduction of the new Roman Missal.

I never took this privilege lightly. In the parish, I wore an alb, a vestment I associate with my baptism, at weekend Liturgies and when I presided at Evening Prayer. I sat in the sanctuary beside my Sacramental Minister in a presider’s chair identical to his. I received the gifts my parishioners brought forward and stood just behind my Sacramental Minister from the ambo when I proclaimed the Gospel. I led prayer services when my Sacramental Minister was unavailable, and I visited the sick and homebound with the Eucharist.

As I turned 70 and concluded my ministry in Saginaw, I sent a letter to Pope Francis. This letter detailed my experiences and the conviction that many people of God would accept women in ordained ministry if the Spirit of God has called them to that role. I don’t know if the Pope ever received that letter and only time will tell if the Catholic Church recognizes the God-given gifts of its many women of influence and answers their call to be prophets of hope through ordained ministry.

Through all these experiences, I learned that women can and do make a significant impact in the Church. Women of Influence have shaped my faith life from my mother’s early teachings to the spiritual and mentoring guidance of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.