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Sts. Edith Stein, Teresa of Ávila, Thérèse of Lisieux and Catherine of Siena are represented in stained glass at St. Thérèse of Lisieux Church in Montauk, N.Y. The Catholic Church needs women saints, Pope Francis said in a message to a conference in Rome on “Women Doctors of the Church and Co-Patronesses of Europe.”
Sts. Edith Stein, Teresa of Ávila, Thérèse of Lisieux and Catherine of Siena are represented in stained glass at St. Thérèse of Lisieux Church in Montauk, N.Y. The Catholic Church needs women saints, Pope Francis said in a message to a conference in Rome on “Women Doctors of the Church and Co-Patronesses of Europe.”
Photo Credit: International Women’s Day Pope Francis highlights ‘light and hope’ women saints offer In address to conference, pope emphasized the contributions of four doctors of the Church and three co-patrons of Europe By Catholic News Service Gregory A. Shemitz | Long Island Catholic

On International Women’s Day, pope highlights ‘light and hope’ saints offer

In address to conference, pope emphasized the contributions of four doctors of the Church and three co-patrons of Europe

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church needs women, especially women saints, who have shown throughout history an unwavering dedication to God and to caring for their brothers and sisters, Pope Francis said.

The women honored as doctors of the Church and as co-patrons of Europe, he said, are examples of “the courage to face difficulties; the capacity for being practical; a natural desire to promote what is most beautiful and human according to God’s plan; and a far-sighted, prophetic vision of the world and of history, that made them sowers of hope and builders of the future.”

Pope Francis made his comments in a message March 8 to a conference at Rome’s Pontifical Urbanian University on “Women Doctors of the Church and Co-Patronesses of Europe.”

The academic conference, held on International Women’s Day, focused on Sts. Teresa of Ávila, Catherine of Siena, Thérèse of Lisieux and Hildegard of Bingen, who are doctors of the Church, and on Sts. Bridget of Sweden, Edith Stein and Catherine of Siena, who are co-patrons of Europe.

The teaching and example of the seven women, he said, “can offer light and hope to our fragmented and fractious world.”

While they lived at different times, in different countries and had “very different missions,” the pope said, they each offered an example of a holy life.

“Through the grace of baptism, they were docile to the Spirit and pursued their own journey of faith, moved not by shifting ideologies but an unwavering adherence to the ‘humanity of Christ’ that permeated their lives,” the pope wrote.

Sometimes they “felt incapable and limited, ‘little women,’ as Teresa of Ávila would say, faced with an undertaking that surpassed them,” he said, but they drew strength from the love of God and followed their vocations on “a path accessible to all: that of holiness in daily life.”

A time to reach out to young women

The Catholic Church at all levels can find ways to involve more women in leadership positions, “but you have to start with wanting it. The how follows the fact that you want it; that’s where the creativity opens up,” said Carolyn Y. Woo, former CEO and president of Catholic Relief Services.

Woo spoke on the eve of International Women’s Day, March 8, to Catholic News Service about her new book, “Rising: Learning from Women’s Leadership in Catholic Ministries.”

Woo said progress in inviting women into ministry, recognizing their talents and calling them to leadership is “uneven” but “we are not talking about evenness, we are talking about progress, about rising. They have not risen totally, but they are rising.”

With so few women in leadership in some areas of Church life and with ordination reserved to men, a conclusion that the Church doesn’t value women may be understandable, but incomplete, Woo said.

In parishes and dioceses, schools and universities, as well as regional and national Catholic organizations, like Catholic Relief Services, Woo said she has worked with many women in top leadership positions.

Woo said she wanted to set the record straight.

“There’s work for the Church to do. There’s still sort of a lack of real hospitality to women,” she said. “On the other hand, there’s also a lot which has been done.”

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