Bishop Victor Phalana: It’s Time for Women to Step Up in Church
By Agnes Aineah – A bishop has lauded women who assume ministerial roles in the absence of clergy, and urged the local Church to find ways of encouraging more women to take up leadership positions in the Church, including enrolling for theology classes.
“We must ensure that women are included in the heart of the Church so that we can enjoy the fullness of human reflection, male and female, in the formation of our moral, doctoral and pastoral life,” Bishop Victor Phalana of Klerksdorp said in a video.
“Women must also be encouraged to be trained in theology and in other Church disciplines. This is our weakest point in Southern Africa.”
According to Bishop Phalana, other countries in Africa perform better than South Africa when it comes to encouraging lay and religious women to train in canon law, scripture and theology.
“We still have a lot of work towards encouraging women in South Africa to follow this path, and it is perhaps time for the Church in Southern Africa to create a special scholarship for women and girls who would like to go and pursue those studies, so that we can have this kind of resources in our Church,” the bishop said, adding that “we need more Catholic women writers”.
The message to commemorate South Africa’s Women’s Month, Bishop Phalana said, is a call for everyone to celebrate the role of women in the country’s liberation.
“I am proud to say that in our diocese, women play a very significant role. They are part of our leadership structures in our diocese,” he said. “We have opted for a collaborative type of leadership where the laity and particularly women play a significant role.”
Women also lead funerals services which, according to Bishop Phalana, is a very important ministry.
“During funerals they [women] are there comforting the bereaved, ministering to them and preaching the Word of God and leading burial rites,” he said. “They are the ones who are there with the dying, giving them the bread of life especially in cases where the priest is not present,” he says.
The bishop noted that texts, prayers and hymns—especially English ones—sometimes are sexist.
“We cannot tolerate the liturgy of males. It must be a liturgy of men and women who are equal members of the Body of Christ. We are a Church that speaks of justice and must first be just in our actions,” said Bishop Phalana.
“Let us check sexist language and perhaps work at eradicating it.”
According to the 59-year-old bishop, the traditional role of women in the Church has been to pray, to pay, to obey, to clean the Church, to arrange flowers and wash vestments, and to go home.
“Today, however, the Church has roles open for women and, thank God, they are exercising those roles in our diocese,” he said, referring to positions such as proclaimers of the Word of God, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers, catechists, and parish finance committee members as some of the roles women can participate in.— ACI Africa
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