Women ready to be deacons but is the Church ready for them?

Ready and willing to serve

As a deacon’s wife, Cynthia Bowns participated in her husband's classes during his formation. “I’ve always had a sense of ministerial call, but it became more focused [then].” Ms Bowns says women would bring a special sensibility to the role. America has the story.

Cynthia Bowns gazes at a painting of the Last Supper that hangs in the study of her home. It is not Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous depiction of Jesus and the 12 male apostles. Her painting includes several women alongside the 12 men at the table of the first Eucharist.

“I think this is probably a more accurate representation of who was actually there with Jesus,” she says.

It’s clear from the gospels that Jesus had many followers among women. In the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of St Paul, women also appear as diligent workers in the early Church, spreading the Good News and ministering to other women, children, and the poor in an early version of the diaconate. Those Scripture passages give Ms Bowns hope that modern women will soon be able to once again serve as ordained deacons.

The Church took a major step in that direction recently when Pope Francis named a 12-member commission — six men and six women — to study the question. If women are allowed into the diaconate, Ms Bowns says she hopes to be at the head of the line.

Few could argue with her credentials. She has a master’s degree in divinity, a certificate in spiritual formation from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and worked for years in that seminary’s development office. And she is married to a deacon.

“I don’t want to make blanket statements about women, but often as mothers, or like me, a grandmother, we have a sensitivity to listening to people, to perceiving things. We come at the world in a slightly different way. My husband and I, we have totally different gifts, but we come together in a really special way.

"I think this would be an opportunity for more women in ministry to come together with their male peers in a really holistic, beautiful way,” she says.


Women are ready for the diaconate. Is the Church ready for them?


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