Portraits of three Catholic women in the heart of the liturgy…originally published in La Croix

At the Way of the Cross on Good Friday April 14, in Rome, Pope Francis will hear meditations written by the French theologian Anne-Marie Pelletier.

On this occasion, La Croix highlights three women engaged in unusual functions in the Church: one celebrates Sunday, the other celebrates baptisms and the third preaches on the Internet.
Pilgrims dance and sing after the Way of the Cross led by Pope Francis on July 29, 2016.

Pilgrims dance and sing after the Way of the Cross led by Pope Francis, July 29, 2016. / WOJTEK RADWANSKI / AFP
In Alsace, it animates Sunday assemblies

Marie-Alix Bresson is professor of mathematics and lives in Flaxlanden, near Mulhouse. At almost 60, this mother has been participating for four years in the “celebrations of the Word” encouraged by the diocese of Strasbourg. In other words, she runs Sunday meetings in her parish, for lack of a priest.

“We are six lay women to relay two by two once a month in my parish. I am hosting a one-hour ceremony centered on reading the Bible, “she explains.

This enthusiast of biblical texts did not hesitate when she was asked to join the team: “It is a very rich experience, which corresponds well to my way of deepening my faith, based on my reading. When I choose the theme of Sunday or write the prayers, I finally have more freedom than the priests because I do not have all the liturgy to follow. ”

To read: Anne-Marie Pelletier, a French pen for the Way of the Cross of the Pope

Even if some prefer to go to Mass in one of the neighboring parishes, three-quarters of the faithful, some forty, are willing to attend the celebrations of Marie-Alix. “People say thank you. Of course, there are fewer people than at Mass, but seeing the smiles of people on the way out, it’s extraordinary, “continues the Alsatian.

The communion, distributed during the ceremony, is also the attraction of these assemblies. “We distribute the hosts consecrated by the parish priest the previous Sunday. The priests of the diocese fought so that we could give communion in their absence: it is important for people. ”

Mari-Alix is ​​convinced that occasional Sunday celebrations without a priest will be part of the future of the French parishes: “Some day or other, there will be even fewer priests. We will have to choose between 30 kilometers each Sunday and this type of alternatives, which finally make us discover new ways to pray together. ”
In Quebec, she baptizes newborns

Lucie Maheu, a 47-year-old Quebec mother, has been an extraordinary minister of baptism for a year and a half. This measure is authorized by canon law (canon 861). Like a dozen other women from her diocese, Saint Jean-Longueuil, near Montreal, where she works in youth ministry, she celebrates this sacrament when the parish priest is not available.

“It has been some fifteen years since our diocese, which is quite avant-garde, has appointed women to this function,” she explains. In my parish, in Saint Constant, I baptize about ten babies per month during two celebrations. ”

Read also: What place for women in the Church?

Even if baptism is for her “a grace of God that simply descends,” Lucie Maheu has received upstream training as well as continuing education. She also felt the need to customize the ceremonies.

“I explain as clearly as possible to the families the gestures I make and the words I say,” she says. I also try to value the role of godparents. People are often surprised to see a woman baptize their child, but they appreciate that the ceremonies are warm. One day a grandfather even encouraged him by saying, “I wish you to become a priest”! “It touched me but I said I was fine with my husband and my two grown children,” smiled Lucie Maheu.

She is proud to participate in a project that can “open doors for women” and wants women from other countries to experience “the same joy”.
In the United States, she preaches on the Internet

Sister Diana Culbertson, who lives in Ohio in the northeastern United States, is a Dominican and a theologian. At the end of 2016, she founded the American site “Catholic women preach” with dozens of women, religious and secular. She delivers on this platform, in the form of text and video, her comments on Sunday readings.

For her, this site is above all an opportunity to share a feminine point of view on the Bible: “A woman will not talk about the Nativity as a man for example! We publish our videos two weeks in advance so that the priests can view them and draw inspiration from them in their own homilies. Some do, it is a great recognition, “rejoices the nun.

Read also: The number of ordinations decreases slightly in France

In her videos, Sister Diana Culbertson emphasizes feminine biblical figures: “Junie, Prisca, and the deaconess Phoebe, of whom Saint Paul speaks for example, are very little evoked in the classic Sunday liturgy. Yet they had a great role in the establishment of the first Christian communities. ”

Even though some of her videos attract more than 2,000 Internet users, the theologian hopes to one day comment on the Bible at mass rather than in front of a camera. “For me, the only condition for preaching is to have charisma, and I do not see why it should be reserved for men. I hope that one day the Vatican will allow us to deliver homilies to the church. ”

She who “always felt called to preach” wants to share this vocation: “Women are central in the Gospel; Why should they not participate more in the liturgy? I want to tell Catholic women that they are all called to express themselves, and that their gender does not limit them. ”
Elise Racque and Mélinée Le Priol

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